Sunday, May 30, 2010
A Woman's Right to Shoes.
Given the strain under which fashion culture has been placed lately I couldn't help but wonder if people have always been so critical of clothes and accessories.
My first thought took me to one of my favorite films, for what is The Wizard of Oz if not a feminist stance on a woman's right to shoes?
When we first meet Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) she's a preadolescent living in a sepia Kansas. Her clothing is limited to a simple jumper and white puffy shirt, complete with inconsequential Mary janes.
Threatened by the lack of meaning in her dull life and the menace of her evil neighbor Mrs. Gulch (Margaret Hamilton) she dreams of going to a place over the rainbow, where problems not only melt like lemon drops but she can actually enjoy the color of said fruits.
As we all know, a tornado takes her to the far away land of Oz where she encounters a fierce enemy in the Wicked Witch of the West and the endless possibilities of a Technicolor palette.
The minute she arrives, her view of life is transformed because she has achieved color. Her simple jumper now in pale blue becomes a symbol of serenity and achievement.
Did you know that the color blue is meant to symbolize high ideals?
With this simple color choice we determine that the filmmakers are placing an importance in the way Dorothy looks, in her expression through what she wears.
It's also interesting to point out the fact that for the film, the slippers were changed as well. In the book they are made out of silver but once they are tinted in red for the movie they acquire the properties of what some call the color of life.
Red is supposed to increase energy levels in those who see it while also representing confidence to chase your dreams and protection from fear.
What has lacked in most commentaries on Oz is the notion that Dorothy's struggles also represent a woman's self discovery through fashion.
When Dorothy's house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East, her death doesn't become reality until she's ridden of her powerful ruby slippers.
Notice how her socks shrink only until the good witch Glinda (Billie Burke) magically removes her shoes. Before that moment for all we know she could still lift the house with a magical spell.
With this, the movie isn't validating her life expressly through her footwear but makes a remarkable commentary on the ability of a thing as simple as a shoe to give women means of liberation.
Once I read an article on Vogue in which a woman who hated high heels takes on the enterprise of trying them out to see what she's missing. After an experimental phase she decides heels are still just not the thing for her.
Her views are changed however once she meets a woman who confesses that like her, she could do without the pain of heels but she uses them to reach the same height of her male co-workers at the office.
Judy Garland was quite short and given Dorothy's age, one would also expect her to be lacking in height. But once she puts the slippers on she is on par with her eventual, all male, travel companions.
She may not tower over them but she's practically their equal and instead of being seen as a meek figure, it's Dorothy herself who becomes their protector.
And that's without even mentioning the fact that the slippers have magical powers.
Then again, what is magic if not the ability to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary?
A woman's shoes may not have the power to transport her to other worlds or grant her wicked witch exterminating skills but they are much more than means of protecting your feet.
I'm sure when Dorothy woke up back in Kansas, she grabbed the first bus to the city and made her way to a department store to get her first pair of heels.
This post is part of the musical blog-a-thon hosted by the awesome Andrew of Encore's World of Film & TV.