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Sticking It to Stilettos


“Fashionistas” are probably not the audience I’m seeking.

Reality check. I am glad that I got through all my proposed principles of feminine leadership before seeing The New York Times last week. I wonder now: Whom did I think I was addressing?

Could I be addressing someone among the enormously wealthy women featured in “Going Toe-to-Toe in Stilettos?” Could a woman who might actually pay $5,000 for a pair of 5 3/4 inch pumps by Christian Louboutin be interested in principles of feminine leadership? As author Eric Wilson wrote, this requires “willful suspension of rational thinking.” This is not a capacity that will be helpful.

Christian Louboutin “Big Lips” Stiletto

If I were a person who had the means to do this kind of shopping, I don’t think I would want The New York Times in circulation. The journalism is first-rate, but the newspaper continually and apparently inadvertently reveals a huge and growing disparity in wealth in this country. And I have to acknowledge that the sisterhood is involved in ways that are sometimes kind of embarrassing.

The ads are revealing.  It is very odd how we have consented to market designers by wearing their logos. An example is a “denim tote” that costs $2,500 for the privilege of sporting the Chanel logo. And a new trend is to show off watches so encrusted with diamonds that one wonders how they can tick.

Costly jewelry has always been a way to flaunt wealth, but the display is getting more ostentatious. Harry Winston’s diamond pieces can be stunning in advertisements, but Graff goes to the vulgar side. One wonders who buys Graff jewelry. They must have interesting stories.

Of course the idea is to wear this jewelry where the most people will see it. The balls and galas that raise money for social and charitable foundations are favorite venues, and the newspaper ran an article on that scene yesterday. One might make an effort to slow global warming by attending The Concert for the Rainforest Fund. The best ticket could cost a woman $2,500, a nice donation. If she buys a whole table, she donates $50,000.

Of course she wants her generosity reported in the right publications, so she retains a publicist for a month for a fee ranging from $5,000 to $120,000. And if she’s going to be photographed, she must look her best. This would involve a Botox treatment for about $600 and then $1,500 for hair and makeup. The cost of purse, stiletto heels, and dress could approach $20,000 or more. Actually more is possible in every category.

The cost of just one event in a season of many creates the impression of a very different reality. Is it likely that anyone who enjoys this kind of wealth feels unsafe in the world, no matter how many more disasters like Hurricane Sandy occur? After all, you could escape to virtually anywhere and have plenty of money handy for housing, food, and services. Why would you be inclined to invest a lot–millions, let’s say–in the prevention or mitigation of looming perils if there is no correspondingly big dress-up opportunity?

But then fashion, especially for women, is just one of countless ways we all have of escaping from troubling issues. As I mentioned in an earlier post, needlework was an early outlet for feminine creativity and undoubtedly saved the sanity of many. The making of imaginative garments was primarily women’s work, and court dress was indeed fabulous. Men got involved too, however. Back in the Renaissance, for example, the stuffed and embroidered codpiece was very popular.

I don’t have figures for this, but in spite of the Vera Wangs and Carolina Herreras, male designers clearly dominate the fashion world, their vision implemented by fleets of seamstresses. And in fact, the stiletto heels that launched this post are a real feat (pardon the pun) in the masculine gift of engineering.

“Fashionistas” are probably not the audience I’m seeking. You never know, however. The bottom line is that, in my effort to provoke a larger conversation about the need for uniquely feminine leadership, I am addressing anyone who is inclined to listen. And one must realize that the process of waking up to urgency is ongoing as the media continue to focus on all the bad news demanding action.

I need a closing image to make my point, however. I think I will adjourn with a question: Does it really matter whether one wears a pair of stunning stilettos over the threshold to the sixth great mass extinction?

How did that do?

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