The Sky’s the Limit


After observing the collection of shoes this last couple of seasons, one has to ask, “How high is too high?”   The phenomenon of 5, 6 or even 7-inch heels with platform soles has taken over the fashion runways, not to mention store displays and subsequently, the workplace.    Women love their heels!  They seem to be willing to endure any amount of pain to participate in this latest fashion, resulting in windfall business for the medical profession.

One article I read reported that two models for the Prada 2009 spring collection fell on the runway and others were crying because they were so scared.   Not only is this humiliating but it can result in a sprained or broken ankle and it’s not limited to runway models.  Medical statistics confirm that about 90% of podiatrist’s patients are women and over 90% of foot surgeries are on women with conditions that do not appear in men.   My husband just had foot surgery last week (definitely not from wearing high heels!) and the majority of patients awaiting surgery were women.

How did high-heeled shoes come into being?  Well, back in 1533, Catherine de Medici was about to be married to the next king of France.  She needed something to endear her to the French public so a Florentine artisan fabricated a shoe for her designed with a slender 4” heel, replacing her clunky wooden soles.  The new shoes provided an amazing transformation.  She suddenly had a more commanding presence as well as an alluring walk.  This new style became the rage of French noblewomen, and then spread throughout Europe and ultimately the world.  Now, 500 years later, we still love our heels and are going to greater extremes to look powerful and sexy.

One report I read quoted Michael J. Coughlin, a clinical professor of orthopedics, who equated the damage done by high fashioned pumps to that done by binding the feet of Chinese women in times past!  Now I have no intention of giving up my high heels but I would like to avoid damaging my feet.  One key is to reduce the pressure on the balls of your feet.  A 3” heel increases the pressure by 7 times.    Most podiatrists recommend no higher than 2” heels.  I wear 2 ½” most of the time and limit the number of hours that I wear them, but them I’m a grandmother!   In years past, I have worn 3” heels all day, every day but never the extreme heights that are now being worn.

At a business luncheon this week, I met a lady who has developed a line of custom shoes that treat your foot more lovingly.  She has six styles, each of which can be made in different fabrics.  You can check it out at to see if this might be an option for you.

As each of you choose your path in wearing high heels, I encourage you to think of all the years you have left to use this means of looking alluring and feminine.  My goal is to be like my Aunt Jane who, at 95, was still driving into San Francisco from Palo Alto to have her dressmaker make the latest design she had created.  Yes, she was still wearing heels but never the extremely high ones.   When she passed away at 100, I sent her very stylish high-heeled boots to a cousin who wore the same size as she.   Here’s to projecting feminine power by enjoying our high heels without ruining our feet!


What to take for a month away

After reflecting on our packing strategy for a month in France, I thought you might enjoy my sharing some tips. Packing was complicated by being in a transitional season and ending with a few days in Paris.

International travel allows two bags each weighing up to 50 pounds if you are traveling coach.  We checked three bags at exactly 50 pounds each, one containing books and materials for my husband’s presentations.  We had our computer bag and one smaller bag to carry on.  I never allow my colors and materials for workshops to be checked.

I’ll give you a quick recap of what we took.   First, I coordinated everything around black trousers and shoes for both of us.  Black does not show soil as easily and is much easier to find in the stores that trying to follow your color palette.  You can then use tops in your palette to compliment your coloring.  We each took walking shoes and dressy casual shoes.  In addition, I took a pair of pumps with 2” heel.   Good walking shoes are a necessity as Europeans walk much more than we do here and the sidewalks and streets are often cobblestones, gravel or other uneven surfaces.  Men’s walking shoes have been quite easy to find for a number of years now while attractive, comfortable women’s shoes have only recently become available.  I just received a catalogue showing 8 different styles that would work very well, several of them being available in narrow and wide widths.

I took two pair of slacks, black and gray and a pair of black, cropped pants, while my husband took one pair of black slacks and one pair of  Chinos.  We each took three pair of jeans, black and dressy blue.   I packed one dress and my husband a sports jacket for any special occasion.   I prefer good, firm-weave wool slacks as they hold their shape and don’t wrinkle badly.  If wool has picked up some wrinkles, you can run a hot shower and let the steam relax the wrinkles.

We packed four dress shirts (be sure they are wrinkle free), two cotton knit shirts, three sweaters – one that could be layered over a shirt – and a light jacket for my husband.  I took three sweater sets, three individual sweaters, a suede jacket and a vest.  We both included heavier jackets for the last three days in Paris.  I also included two Pashmina scarves for added style and/or warmth.  I mentioned the wrinkle free shirts as we did take two shirts to “Pressing” which cost us 11 Euro!  That’s about $14 with the exchange rate.   Otherwise, we were fortunate to have access to a washer and dryer but I have used a public Laundromat in the past.  If traveling from hotel to hotel, one can wash out lingerie using shampoo, letting it dry over night.   Men’ s underwear is also available in silk and will dry overnight as well.

Along with our toiletries, appropriate socks/hose and tights, vitamins, lingerie (I always pack lingerie for 7 days), we each added one fleece top and bottom and warm socks to wear in the evenings at the cottage.   We even remembered two travel umbrellas.  This was one of the few times that Europe has not benefitted from our purchase of an umbrella!  We were happy that we had added two heavier jackets for Paris – temperatures dropped to 30 degrees the last two nights.

Throughout our stay, we always felt well dressed, looking as if we were locals.  We also had enough variety that we never felt like we were wearing the same thing to the same events.   And the best part – there was room to bring home treasures from France!  Along with some special wines, foie gras, herbs and gifts, we visited my favorite resale shop in Paris, which we had discovered two years ago.   This shop carries designer clothes and accessories that have been gently used as well as new with tags still on from a previous season.  Their second boutique next door has eveningwear and vintage.  Although I was not able to determine the original price this time, my purchases last visit were about 20% of the original price and then I got the 12+% return in vat tax when departing the country.   And yes, I did fine some treasures this time – all with new tags!