Monday, April 18, 2011

Dance Shoes in the Office

by Laura Bickle

"Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels."
      -Bob Thaves, "Frank and Ernest", 1982

When I got my first professional job out of college, I was working downtown at the capitol where skirt suits and heels were required. And hose. This was not quite in the time that dinosaurs roamed the earth, but some industries are more conservative in dress than others. I could get away with a pantsuit on non-committee days, but if there was a ghost of a chance that I might get hauled up in front of the committee to explain my department's research on this, that, or the other, the skirt suit and heels were required.

Same with the most of the positions I've held since that time waaaaay back in the day. Flats have been a recent incursion into my career wardrobe in the last few years. They still feel like cheating, somehow. And all of a sudden, I find that I'm much shorter that I used to be. Which is odd. There's a certain advantage to heels - it forces others to look you in the eye and not look down at you or over your head. I feel vaguely like a shorter-than-average duck slapping my size-eight feet on the floor in ballerina flats.

So...I never really minded heels. I realize that, in certain environments, they are part of the uniform. And I don't mind uniforms. I'm not at work to assert my individuality. I'm there to do a job as part of an organization. And if the office culture requires it, then my tootsies will be in heels.

There are ways to do it, of course. I was one of those girls who rode the bus wearing flats or sneakers with my dress shoes in a bag. It's unattractive, but you do what you gotta do. While I did invest in good quality shoes with thicker, stacked heels, I'm not going to push my luck walking ten blocks in them. They were perfectly functional for walking a couple of blocks for lunch or zipping down to the ice cream cart for an afternoon pick-me-up. But they aren't sneakers. I don't believe Stacy London on What Not to Wear when she says heels can be as comfy as sneakers.

But I did get an education on heels, once upon a time. I was searching for a pair of decently comfortable costume boots to wear to my local SF con and found myself in a shop that sold sexy lingerie and shoes. It was, essentially, a place where strippers buy costumes. I came in holding the boots I wanted to use for my Trinity costume: "Do you have something like this? That I can walk in?"

"Oh, hon," the lady behind the counter said. "That's a  BEDROOM shoe. You need a DANCE shoe. C'mon, let me show you..."

And she gave me an education on heels. About height, width, material, fit, and style. I learned a lot about what kinds of shoes dancers wear in their trade, and managed to retain enough of it to help guide me through future shoe purchases. I left that day with a pair of glossy patent black boots that I still wear with costumes. And they're pretty darn comfy.

These days, I do keep a few pairs of "dance" heels around for dress functions. Cute little T-straps with the 1940's vibe. But my love for the last couple of years has been gladiator sandals for dress. I have some lovely metallic and patent ones that are comfy and pretty. They remind me of goddess shoes.  And several pairs of boots for winter and costuming.

"Dance" shoes, all of them. Even if I'm at work, I'm dancing in my head. Sometimes backwards.



  1. I demand a follow up post on the finer points (ha) of that heel education you got!

  2. "Oh, hon," the lady behind the counter said. "That's a BEDROOM shoe. You need a DANCE shoe.

    LOL. I love it. It's too bad the uber-trendy designers are confusing the two right now.

    Yes, I do recall the days of power-suit and sneakers; though, I was spared the worst of it due to the advent of Easy Spirit pumps.

  3. There is an old joke about the X-Files: "If Scully can run in heels, you can, too."

    KAK...yes to the Easy Spirit pumps! I was power-suiting in the time that chunky heels were in, which was a big help.

    Marcella, it was quite an education. In a nutshell, pointy toes are bad. Box toes or rounded toes are good. The shoe should fit a bit tighter than sneakers, so that your foot isn't sliding around inside and causing blisters when you walk. Soft material with no hard seams on the inside - vinyl is actually really comfy. Heel position should be directly under your natural heel. One of the key things was having a shoe that wraps around the foot in some way...whether it's closed like a boot or caged and strapped like a sandal. Something to keep the shoe on the foot. Modest platforms are actually pretty good, because they can increase heel height while offsetting it through stacking the front of the shoe.

    Ballroom dance shoes follow the same guidelines, interestingly enough. I have gone to a local ballroom dance supplier for shoes on a couple of occasions. They were great.

  4. I *so* want some dance shoes now! My heroines are the Charlie's Angels gals. When I can do a flip and spin kick in stilettos, I'll be happy.

  5. Yes! Where can I get those boots???

  6. So now when I think of Jeffe she is strutting her stuff in sexy high heels, and Laura is dancing. The style, the grace. : )