Curve Ap­peal

The curvi­lin­ear heels of the mo­ment are sur­real, mys­ti­cal and dis­tinctly fem­i­nine.

Fashion (Canada) - - The Female Gaze - By Ta­tum Doo­ley

The Spring 2019 run­ways were filled with high heels that had the coun­te­nance of a cres­cent moon. At Prada, they dou­bled as UFO space­ships, while at Jac­que­mus, feet were perched atop heels fash­ioned from per­fect spheres. They were crafted into translu­cent points that looked like crys­tals at Bal­main and dived in­ward like an ex­ag­ger­ated comma at Dior.

The pre­de­ces­sor of these con­toured shapes is the Vir­gule, or “comma,” heel, cre­ated by Roger Vivier in 1963. Yet the trend of un­usual heels can be traced back to the Dada move­ment of the 1930s, where they were of­ten sub­verted. Artist Meret Op­pen­heim trussed two high heels to­gether—the white stodgy kind worn by nurses—and dis­played them belly up on a plat­ter. The use of the heel as a “ready­made”—a term coined by artist Mar­cel Duchamp to de­scribe art made from man­u­fac­tured ob­jects—set a his­tor­i­cal and artis­tic prece­dent for the un­usual heel shapes we see to­day.

These sloped heels, with their bul­bous curves that re­sem­ble Henry Moore sculp­tures, and stilet­tos serve a sim­i­lar pur­pose: to make the wearer taller and ac­cen­tu­ate the leg. But when the viewer’s eye trav­els down and reaches the heels, they’re in for a sur­prise. The ten­sion be­tween fa­mil­iar­ity and the per­ver­sion of the shape throws the heels into flux, cre­at­ing a feel­ing of the un­canny. They are sur­real, mys­ti­cal and dis­tinctly fem­i­nine.

High heels have al­ways tele­graphed the power of the wearer, the foot pre­car­i­ously wrapped in bondage atop a rigid spike. The re­sult is unan­i­mously sexy. But these heels, with their un­du­lat­ing curves, sig­nify a shift away from the phal­lic, Space Nee­dle-es­que ar­chi­tec­tural lines and to­ward shapes that hint at the volup­tuous, or­ganic fe­male form—not un­like the sculp­ture Venus of Wil­len­dorf (carved be­tween 24,000 and 22,000 BCE), which am­pli­fies the re­pro­duc­tive fe­male body. This re­turn to the wom­anly form tracks nicely with fash­ion that has be­come less overtly sex­u­al­ized (ban­dage dresses and stilet­tos) and more sub­tly suited to the fe­male gaze (Phoebe Philo’s for­mer work at Celine and clogs). In an es­say on “ugly fash­ion” pub­lished in The Paris Re­view, Katy Kelleher writes: “Stiletto san­dals re­veal and pumps ac­cen­tu­ate, but like the ar­madillo shoes, clogs ob­scure the shape of the feet. They re­move all eroti­cism. There is no del­i­cate arch, no pointed toe, just leather and wood and prac­ti­cal­ity.”

Heels that slope and curve like the An­te­lope Val­ley ex­ist some­where be­tween the prag­matic na­ture of clogs and the im­prac­ti­cal­ity of tow­er­ing high heels. They’re not ex­actly func­tional in the same way that kit­ten heels are, but they’re not treach­er­ous ei­ther. They’re less a sym­bol of dan­ger and sex and more quirky. A play­ful wink, the heels droop like a Dalí clock or an ob­ject out of a Dr. Seuss book.

These new shapes are per­haps the lat­est evo­lu­tion of #heel­con­cept, an In­sta­gram phe­nom­e­non pi­o­neered by Amer­i­can artist and tex­tile de­signer Misty Pollen that gained trac­tion in 2015. The Dada-in­spired trend in­volved users arch­ing a bare foot on top of a Jenga block of house­hold ob­jects— every­thing from a sprout­ing potato to a scrub brush to a can of Pringles—to cre­ate imag­i­nary heels that sur­prise and sub­vert. Soon af­ter, the #heel­con­cept trend was ab­sorbed into high fash­ion, ap­pear­ing in the form of a lighter at Vete­ments, a plas­tic drink­ing cup at Margiela and a toy ele­phant at Do­ratey­mur.

Sim­i­lar to art, high heels don’t fill a prag­matic need as much as they do a su­per­flu­ous one that im­bues life with mean­ing—an aes­thetic ob­ject that works to give plea­sure to both the wearer and the watcher. What you make of them is up to you.

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