THE REAL LOWDOWN
Byline: Vivian Infantino
Fashion trends move in and out of favor. Right now we’re coming off a high when heels have been soaring. So everybody knows the next new look will be flats.
It all relates to the growing importance of comfort as a fashion factor. For years, comfort was a no-no in fashion circles. Now, it’s almost a given. How times change. Even the Wall Street Journal has gotten into the act with a recent feature on comfort shoes. The footwear world has taken a grumpy look at the article but did spotlight the idea. Anyway, designers always like to speak in absolutes. Heels are either high or low. They don’t like to mess with in-betweens. Right now, the important fashion direction is low.
In designer-speak, this can mean anything from a heel-lift on a ballet flat to what FN calls a little heel, about an inch. This push for lower heels has been happening for a year or so. During that time, couture and ready-to-wear collections were always accented by high heels. Some even sky-high. It was a great look, but not very practical. If working women were the big market to cater to, high heels didn’t make sense.
But when has sense had anything to do with fashion? The beauty-knows-no-pain contingent is always out there. And some women simply feel undressed if they’re not wearing heels. But they’re not the majority. Also, if you followed the fashion copy of a number of editors who covered the couture and rtw openings, you would have seen a lot of whining about skyscraper heels.
For a whole flock of reasons, the fashion push is on to lows. One thing giving them a brand-new look is the diversity of lasts.
A square, mod-like design is the toe shape defining the market. Everyone is still updating the ’70s. Then there are narrow squares. Still some points. And, my favorites, round toes. The broader toe shapes work well with flats. Mod ones are usually walled, to give even more toe room.
The flat movement is happening in casual, tailored and dressy designs. Since we live in a casual/tailored world, that’s where the emphasis is. The basic silhouette is a pump. It can be low-cut or high-riding. Often it is detailed with a little bow, a little strap or a buckle.
Ballets are still in the picture, taking on new impetus in different treatments. Andrea Pfister, for example, likes an almost blackened-green fur version. For her Love and Desire line, Beverly Feldman goes back to the art world for a Mondrian version of a ballerina.
Ballet flats also continue on half-inch heels and higher. The little heel (1 inch or so) is the height that could be particularly appealing to the working- woman crowd. This is a little dressier than the more casual half-inchers. And surprise, surprise, a dressier look is also winning favor with customers again.
In a casual-tailored mood, the moccasin continues its forward march. It’s part of the classic feeling that continues to keep a stranglehold on fashion. Monk straps, too, are part of this category.
And, of course, there is the oxford. This could be the sleeper flat. Actually, oxfords are due for a fashion rebirth on all heel heights.
And then there are boots. Whether short or tallish in height, flat and little heels are the way to go. Also hovering in the background is the stretch shoe, especially on synthetic or rubber soles.
Fashion is in a holding pattern at the moment. There have been no great innovations and none seem to be in view. Emphasis is on classics, comfort, and, for a change of pace, Clueless (mall looks). Mostly it’s a “get real” feeling. In shoes, this down-to-earth movement is expressed in flats.