By  on May 31, 1994

NEW YORK -- Will women leave their comfy, walk-to-work flats and mid-heels behind to totter around on the toe-crunching yet unquestionably glamorous stilettos that have been popping up as key accessory items on runways and in leading fashion magazines?

Unquestionably yes, for night. Emphatically no, for day. No, that is, for the millions of American women who lead rather active lifestyles. Most retailers acknowledge the ready-to-wear and accessory markets are shifting toward more feminine, sexier looks, but many executives are not so sure women, particularly working women, will immediately gravitate toward the over 21/8 heel heights currently making headlines. Many retailers question their chances for success in getting women who are used to wearing 12/8-14/8 heels to the office into heels nearly twice as high.

And what about all those twentysomethings accustomed to workboots and hikers? Will they automatically shuck their thick cotton socks and combat boots in favor of sheer nylons and heels that could make an acrophobe break out in a cold sweat? "I think it's going to be difficult to get women out of the comfort mode, especially if they lead active lives or have a business career," commented Joan Kaner, senior vice president and fashion director at Neiman Marcus, Dallas."Unless, of course, they have a car or are being driven around. Otherwise wearing the higher-heeled stilettos will be a little difficult."

Kaner, like many retail executives, feels higher heels will gain almost immediate acceptance on the cocktail party and special-occasion front, however. Personally, Kaner said, she prefers practical shoes such as those by Robert Clergerie for her busy daytime schedule and more feminine, generally higher-heeled silhouettes from a designer like Manolo Blahnik for evening wear. Still, she said, persuading women to don higher heels for daytime is not an impossible task, only one that will take some time.

Meanwhile, the market's more feminine bent has prompted many retailers to look askance at the chunkier, heavier silhouettes that fared so well over the past several seasons. "After all these seasons of big, clunky looks like combat boots, there seems to be a return to glamour and femininity," noted Michael Stachowski, buyer and manager of the shoe department at Fred Hayman in Beverly Hills, Calif.

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