I have a few oceans which never fail to satisfy and fashion is one of them. Being truly, madly, deeply obsessed with fashion- its historical, psychological, commercial, technical and visual (among other sensual) aspects, I have to ask where "stripper shoes" (y'know those big ol' platform soled, 70's by way of 30's, dancer by way of pleaser shoes) came from, what they mean, and whether they would turn my 5' 11" self into a super hero of sorts. (No such thing as too tall, I sez. My inner drag queen looks stupid right now in her wig cap and full makeup, but she agrees wholeheartedly with me. She had on a very Hedwig blond flip thing a minute ago which was ridiculous. I'm making her change.)
Thinking of stripper shoes, my brain jumps to strip clubs, street corners, and Pamela Anderson. (Although I can also see her in Uggs taking her boys for a walk because as a dedicated Us Weekly reader, I know that although she's a star, she's just like us! Which is a huge relief to all of you, I'm sure.) My brain grabs KISS by their sequins and takes a close look at their platform boots because believeyoume, these boots have something to do with it. My brain takes a quick detour into how do those dancers not topple over on those stupid shoes? territory, jots a quick buy a pair and find out memo to me and gets back to work.
My brain remembers that high end designers send variations on this theme down the runways every now and again. A beautiful suede pair of mary janes with that recognizable "stripper shoe" sole and heel spring to mind. Miuccia Prada's fault, I think. Damn they were lovely, too. Jessica Simpson wore them like a fool when she had too much walking to do once in Atlantic City. Live and learn. The first one's free... or something like that.
John Galliano can be trusted never to stray too far from these shoes. In the last couple of seasons at Christian Dior, he's turned up versions in tortoiseshell, animal prints, metallics and killer brights. Going with his "more is more" philosophy, these have cutouts and straps and all kinds of things to keep it interesting. Gwen Steffani wore a pale aqua pair during her off-key AMA performance (the shoes are not to be blamed... I think.) I could have sworn they were Dior- or Westwood?- until I remembered a photo spread from my October Vogue Italia which shows what look to be the exact same pair by Natasha Marro at House of Harlot.
And House of Harlot is the real deal. Which brings me full circle to strip clubs and street corners. (Why deal with the designer middleman or in Vivienne Westwood's case, middlewoman?) This also brings me for that matter, to my very first fashion design professor who was I-kid-you-not from Transylvania and who dressed most exactly like a teenage goth queen, Lord love her. (She was in her late 40's, but live long and prosper, I sez, mixing things up royally.) But I am digressing again. (I do love to digress. Forgive us our digressions as we forgive those who digress against us. Amen. Now back to the shoes...)
Those gosh darn stripper shoes are from Venice by way of China (mebbe with a stop off in Greece). Back in the day (15th through 17th centuries) they were called chopines (also pattens) and were worn by wealthy Venetian women to avoid muddy streets and flaunt their social status and wealth. This was accomplished by literally towering over others (by up to 20 inches!) Also, the wobble chopines put into one's walk necessitated the assistance of a servant (one more way to show wealth) and absolutely branded the wearer a member of the leisure class (just the way long nails supposedly do or bound feet definitely did.)
They also, of course, had something to say about being financially looked after by one man, if not many. Because, of course, often enough chopines were worn by wealthy courtesans. Just to make it confusing, though, they were also worn by "respectable" women, too- wives and daughters, etc.
These days, if you want to get right down to it, they've probably been pushed into courtesan territory. When teenagers wear them, they're going for some "bad girl" mystique and are usually triumphant vinyl failures. When older girls/ women wear them-who do not use them as part of a professional uniform, as it were- they either look like tacky fools or they look pretty damn hot. (I've seen more examples of the former than I have of the latter. The latter gets done, though.) When working girls wear them, well, they own the "bad girl" market, so to speak, but mystique is rarely a part of it.
Fan dancing on the other hand... that has some mystique. And it probably requires a different pair of shoes. Now, if you'll pardon me, I have to go. My inner drag queen is about to leave the house with frosted pink lipstick and a copper colored wig. I am not about to let this happen.