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A Tale of Two Fittings
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* Sore Feet *

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Feet have never been my fetish. Other parts excite me more than my metatarsals. In fact, I prefer to see a foot fashionably encased in fine leather. But therein lies the rub (pun intended). Women's shoe sizes, like insurance premiums, height-weight standards, and most school systems, are predicated on the needs of average people. If your foot is unremarkable in length and width, nothing but poverty or Prozac could keep you from becoming Imelda Marcos. I myself, though amply endowed with additional avoirdupois in all the wrong places, possess an uncommonly narrow pair of size 10 AAA trotters. A recalcitrant Cinderella, I have watched shoe salespeople glisten with anticipation as they raid distant storerooms for the hopeful but hapless.

On many occasions, I have glanced at the men's department, where shoes come in sizes to fit every male from Baryshnikov to Babar. One man I know wears a 6 1/2 EEE; another is happily ensconced in a 12 AA. They sit down casually to be measured for comfortable, functional shoes, a treat I have foregone since infancy. On solid leather heels or spongy rubber soles, men's shoes run the gamut from funky to formal in all available styles and sizes. I wonder how many men have suffered through a pinched toe or a slipping heel for fashion's sake. Though men allegedly designed the concept of spiky women's shoes to flatter feminine legs and ankles, I often wonder if their true intent was not to hobble and constrain. I wish we had thought to do the same. I'd love to see my husband and sons in some elegant Louis XIV brocades.

Clothing sizes are even more ridiculous. Adult women five foot four and under are consigned to the "Petites" department, a cluster of little lacy concoctions for the height impaired. It often seems that designers have forgotten that petite in stature does not necessarily mean petite in sophistication. Those in the range of "Misses" run the gamut from size two (for anorexic pygmies) to size 18 (ample amounts of cloth for ample amounts of misses). I often wonder what happens when a Mrs. or a Ms. shops in that department, but that is my own idiosyncrasy. Though men's clothing runs uniformly by the inch in waists, lengths, shirtsleeves and collars, women plunge into a potpourri of possibilities where one size eight blouse can actually be bigger than another size 12. Even more confusing are the unisized creations. One day, I would like to meet the "All" that one size fits.

Perhaps the most arbitrarily sized items are those that hang in the "Women's" department. I fail to understand how only those who wear upwards of size 18 are considered women in the garment world. To add more fat to the fire (again, pun intended), this department often seems to be a celebration of the day the fashion world discovered polyester. Women's couturiers have neglected the extremes who would love to wear stylish, fashionable clothing. If frills or synthetics offend your fashion sense, be careful to remain in the average range, dear misses. The only thing "haute" in Petites and Women's clothing is the price.

As in all things, I support individuality over convention. Those of us who have worked together to change unyielding stereotypes in our society should rally again. Think what an effect the Baby Boomers could have in the fashion world if we turned our complaints into convictions. As a matter of fact, there's no reason to limit our power and productivity to racks and rags. By the sheer power of numbers, we are in a unique position to shape the parameters of the years to come. Though inexorably middle-aged, we have the energy and affluence to support a world free of stereotypes.

I have a dream. One day I will walk into a shoe store, proffer my attenuated ankle, and ask for a 10AAA. The salespeople will smile as they attend to the 12E on my right and the 4B on my left. They will not judge us on the basis of our bunions, but rather by the content of our credit lines. Comfortably shod, I will prepare for the important things in life. I will work to ensure that quality antecedes endurance and that difference is celebrated and not subjugated. I will raise my voice and my Visa card to validate the iconoclast in every extremity. The generation which deified denim and glorified the gym shoe can make similar inroads across the accouterments of life. Let's not put our collective feet in our mouths. Remember, our shoes were "made for walkin'"...

Written by Marcia Brown Rubinstien
August 22, 1998

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