Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Warning: This Post Is Not About Sewing and You Might Not Like It

I started out today planning on a most innocuous post.  I thought I would just post up this spread from a recent Little Red Book (JCPenny) that was at my mom's house (my mom is the recipient of literally the largest collection of mail-order catalogs in the entire known universe).  I thought that all my little friends who like vintage might like to see this, if they hadn't been so lucky as to receive one at their own homes.  It's an interestingly commercial take on vintage.


As it happens, I had this catalog open on my desk when a co-worker walked by and decided to take a look.  "That's so cute!" she exclaimed. "You know.  Without the hooker shoes."

Ah.  Yes.  The Hooker Shoes.

This forced me to confront a topic that has been on my (and many other people's) mind lately: "appropriate" clothing.

I will say right off the top that I am not what I would consider to be a socially conservative person.  I have always considered myself to be at the very least a social moderate, if not a liberal (I'm talking about my social position, as opposed to my political one, which we won't discuss here).  As a result, I am generally of the opinion that people should be allowed (and in this country have some very specific legal rights) to express themselves as they see fit, regardless of whether I agree or disagree with that expression.  I just wanted to say this before I continued on, in case anyone was under the impression that I think people should dress how I expect them to, simply because I expect it.  I do not.  And, to be just completely clear, I am very much not prudish when it comes to people's sexuality.  On the other hand, I think boundaries amongst total strangers are important.  (So of course I'm having a nice little rant about a highly divisive and emotional topic on my sewing blog.)

So for the record, I am not a prude.  On the other hand, you have the overwhelming prevalence of the Hooker Shoes.  This spring I have been totally unable to find a decent pair of sandals I can wear to work, in part because it seems like anything that has a closed back or strap at the heel (vital for work) is, essentially, a Hooker Shoe.  Which I find repellent.  And finally, getting to my point (ha! you're still reading?) this has caused me lately to ponder the concept of the mainstreaming of sexualized clothing throughout history.

More specifically: it seems as though people are frequently impressing on me that throughout history, the sexually explicit nature of clothing changes as a new generation begins to adopt what was once considered "immoral" clothing into everyday wear.

As an example: when the change from floor length to knee length dresses happened during the first quarter of the 20th century, we are often told that older people complained that this mode of dress was "immoral" because (one is led to assume) it was sexually explicit.  One is generally then led to look derisively at those foolish old people who would consider a bare leg to be anything other than a bare leg.  They are at best just haplessly old-fashioned and behind-the-times and at worst oppressive. 

The logical conclusion to this mocking attitude is that anyone who feels that current clothing is too sexual clearly is just "behind-the-times" and "old-fashioned" or in some way oppressive.  For the past year or more I've been thinking that I'm just getting old because I think women wearing skintight miniskirts and bondage shoes are making a sexual statement, rather than merely a fashion statement.  (I think part of my problem is the highly submissive nature of bondage shoes, as opposed to the merely sexual nature of other types of clothing.  I'm still unconvinced that a deep-plunge halter top is appropriate office-wear for my physician's receptionist, but I could at least say that it's not advocating the submission of women as sexual playthings.  Possibly.)

To be honest, I'm still not totally convinced one way or the other.  Since I wasn't actually alive in 1925, I can't really verify (without some significant research that I do not have the time to make) that young people perceived their clothing as merely fashion and not as a form of sexual language.  On the other hand, I can't for sure say that about young people now either.  Is current clothing, for instance the ubiquitous Hooker Bondage Shoe, merely about fashion or is it intended to be a statement about overt sexuality?  And even more perplexing, is this a good or bad thing?  As the mother of two young girls, I'm inclined to think extreme sexuality in clothing (particularly of the objectifying/submissive kind) isn't such a great thing, but...?   On the other hand, I wouldn’t advocate sexual repression under any circumstances.  Which leads to?  Confusion.

So.  Modern clothes.  Too sexy or just plain cute?  Discuss.



(Don't you just love it when perfectly polite blogs suddenly veer explosively off-tangent like an elephant on ketamine?  Sure you do.)

edit: I will admit that the shoes in that photo do not make a particularly strong statement.  These do a little more and if I had more time I’m sure I could find some really crazy weird shoes.   I saw a woman wearing the second pair, or something very similar, last Sunday.  She was pretty clearly dressed for church.  I had to wonder how the rest of her congregation felt about her footwear, except that it’s very clearly the norm around here.



  1. Elephant on ketamine HAHAHA!!

    I have to admit that I actually really like all of those shoes... I assume you are talking about the "Hooker shoes" to the far right, which aren't my personal style, but I don't think are screaming "Take me in a manly fashion", either. But I see your point. We bare our ankles without a second thought, so what will our daughters "bare" that we might have some problems with? I do think that particularly in the children's clothing arena, that we may have found ourselves on a precipice that we didn't realize that we were heading for. I mean, does a 7 year old need thong underwear? Does she need her butt to say "Juicy"? I think this is something that individual parents just have to iron out within the framework of the value system that they are teaching to their children.

  2. *Stands up and applauds* This is a subject which has worried me more and more as my elder daughter approaches her teenage years. I've heard too many stories of sexually active 14 year olds to think it's an isolated event. I feel very strongly that sexually provocative clothing for young girls aint helping that situation. Like you I don't consider myself in any way a prude, but when you aren't sure that a bunch of young teenagers in town are actually just teenagers, not strippers on a break from work, I don't like it.

  3. In my position as one of those Kids These Days, I have to say I don't parse any of those shoes as Hooker Shoes (or Bondage Shoes, or FM Shoes, or whatever). They're just heels. Not my style, to be sure, but not particularly shocking.

  4. The shoes are ridiculous gladiator stilettos. I simply find them to be "angry" shoes with too pointy a heel for real wear.

  5. Truthfully, I had no idea which shoes in the catalog ad you were calling "hooker shoes" until near the end of your post when you started calling them "bondage shoes." To me, they are just heels with straps and if I were at my 20-something age and weight, I'd probably be wearing them. The pair at the bottom right of your post are gladiator with a heel. The pair on the left are kind of Victorian meets disco.

    To me, clothing is just clothing. Fashion comes and goes. Always has. Young people think they are shocking and rebellious, but they're not. Hip huggers/low-rise, halters, exposed midriffs, skin-tight jeans, platforms, stillettos - all done at least once before in my lifetime.

    But if these are bondage shoes to you, then they should signify power not submission, as the "Mistress in charge" would be wearing these, not her submissive partner. ;-)

  6. You're right - what we wear is speech, and sometimes it may be saying something to others that we didn't realize. I laughed at "bondage shoes". I hate them and won't wear them. They look awfully uncomfortable

  7. This is a great topic and one I seem to deal with a lot lately with my 12 yr old dd. She wants to wear heels to school 'cause other girls do it. I said NO! I think she's too young. As she gets older I may rethink it. I don't know yet. I do draw a line when it comes to clothing too. My daughter is very curvy and I almost want to rip the skinny jeans off her because they just aren't flattering, to me. To see some of the girls at her school though...whew. She dresses pretty modestly. If I let her have her way God knows what she'd be wearing. For her, for now, it's all about fashion and fitting in. Nothing sexual about it. At least that's what I like telling myself...

  8. This topic brings a laugh to me....I have always been of the opinion that something should be left to the imagination as far as clothing goes, and I definitely don't want my young girls in anything that would even suggest you should be using your imagination! I wear a size 5 shoe and such as so.....I just can't wear super high heels because I am not a ballerina and can not walk on my tiptoes! :) I wear "sensible" shoes that are all about comfort! :) (That is the engineer in me!)

  9. Hooker shoes or not, they look painful to this old woman who has had bunion surgery and needs hammer toe surgery soon!!! I believe it is ok for people to wear basically anything they want as long as they are not sporting a teeshirt, etc.... that is offensive to the folks around them. I grew up in the 50 and 60s and wore short, short mini skirts and hotpants, so how could I criticize anyone for showing toe cleavage?

  10. Hmmm. I can see where the hooker-y aspect of the shoes come in, and yet at the same time I get the feeling that when one wears such shoes, they probably get a lot more attention from shoe-obsessed ladies than from horny guys. I suspect that what is essentially an boot/sandal hybrid is probably a little out there for a guy. Sexualized or not, my main issue with these kinds of shoes is that people seem to think they actually go well with a dainty flowered sundress. That to me is the real crime here!

    What's next? Classic black sheath dress with sombrero??

  11. I'm always wigged out by clothing that is physically damaging . . . Heels past a certain height dramatically increase the pressure on your spinal column and thus the decaying of your disks--you're grinding them to nothing with every step. Still, reactionary periods in history usually lead to more extremes in fashion: exaggeration of different parts, tighter fits, points and angles. Sign of the times?

    More generally, though, I think a lot of people have simply stopped thinking about how they (or their children) look . . . rock the hooker shoes if you must, but know why you're doing it and how others might interpret them. So many people seem oblivious to how they are perceived, or they just don't care, or both. But they are being perceived and people are reacting to what they see. We do live in a society, much as we often seem to pretend otherwise.

  12. I've seen these shoes around but I just thought they were ugly in a rather hilarious way- I didn't see any sexual message in them at all. Who knows what they mean to the people who wear them!


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