The Joys of Modern Life: 21. Stilettos

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The Independent Culture
YOU CAN wear any kind of shoe this season so long as it's flat, according to the fashion commentators. This leaves me with a problem, for I have a love affair with the stiletto. No, matter how de rigueur this season's grey ankle length skirt may be (which incidentally looks like you've wrapped yourself in a British Airways blanket) if it doesn't look good with a pair of heels then it stays in the shop.

My wardrobe is a shrine to the high-heeled shoe. There's the gold lame mules bought last summer in Rome, various black numbers and my Gucci metal slingbacks brought out for nights of partying and getting wrecked.

But why would one choose to wear a shoe that has connotations not only of the leather-clad dominatrix but, even worse, of Essex girls dancing around a handbag? The reason is simple. Stilettos are about fantasy. Flat shoes promise practicality and efficiency, a sort of bright and breezy Jill Dando. Six-inch spikes promise glamour, danger and the kind of girl you wouldn't take home to your mother but would love to have locked up in your flat.

When Anita Ekberg drank champagne out of her stiletto in the film, La Dolce Vita, she wasn't after an interesting new taste sensation, warm leather and grape. No, this was a clear case of seduce and be damned. No one understood this more than Marilyn Monroe - she went so far as to have one stiletto heel made shorter than the other to develop her famous wiggle.

And therein lies the rub. Wearing stilettos is not just a matter of being taller than your Birkenstock sisters, it totally changes the way a woman walks. Flat shoes allow you to slouch with your shoulders forward, high heels on the other hand require an altogether different body language.

Once you've slipped your feet into a pair of spikes, you can forget striding down the road in a purposeful manner and get used to putting one foot tentatively in front of the other, as if you're not quite sure you whether you will stay vertical or not. Poised high above the ground, your pelvis presses forward, your shoulders are brought back and the bottom has no alternative but to rock from side to side in an unmistakable sashaying movement. Va va voom... the body language of a sex goddess in the click of a heel.

Wearing high heels has an uplifting effect on the wearer. Whenever I slip on my Guccis I feel more feminine and sexy. It's a bit like a Wonderbra for the legs, but instead of artificially enhanced cleavage, your ankles are slimmed and the legs are elongated.

OK, so the fashion mafia may damn the stiletto as naff. "It's all about deconstruction of the form," they wail, trying to gesticulate wildly, only there are no armholes in their boiled-wool shell tops. But surely it's Katherine Hamnett who understands what women want. As she says: "We can talk all kinds of bullshit about clothes, but in the end they're about getting laid."