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Silver Threads: Beware fashion extremes

Bettye Anding

Bettye Anding

Back in the early ‘50s when I was in high school and then college, we girls dressed up to go to football games. Most of the boys did, too — if they had dates for the occasions.

The other day I got to thinking about the two-piece knitted dresses I wore and the pleated skirts with matching dropped-waist tops. Even a hat for one daytime “homecoming”game. My quandary was always whether to complement these outfits with high heels. I’d achieved the height of five feet nine inches when I was about 14, and adding two or three inches seemed like overkill. Especially when you considered that some of my escorts were either destined to remain short, or like many males hadn’t quite grown up in their mid teens.

I usually put on the heels, teetering precariously up the narrow concrete steps of the stadium. Safety took a back seat to fashion.

Nowadays it seems that many girls are much taller than my contemporaries were, and they don’t hesitate to don footwear that puts them up in the stratosphere. They max out at a few inches over six feet wearing the platforms and long, thin-heeled shoes that make me wonder how they walk around without falling over.

Not everybody does: I recently saw a newspaper photo of a model who’d flipped out of her modish red shoes going down a runway and then proceeded along barefoot and left them laying in the middle. She was fortunate; other models and parading celebrities have tumbled to their knees, fannies, or fallen on their faces while parading along the catwalk in the extreme foot wear. Google “fashion accidents” and you’ll see that this model had a near miss. In a memorable episode, Sarah Jessica Parker, as Carrie Bradshaw, flubbed her New York Fashion Week runway debut when she fell flat off her stilettos.

Last month a similar accident claimed the life of a New York woman, 29, who “tripped on high heels” and bled to death from her throat on an apartment stairwell. “Large purse and slippery stairs” may have contributed to the fatal fall, said police.

Now comes — and are you ready — a warning of the dangers of wearing too-tight jeans. Two weeks ago from the Associated Press came the news that “Doctors in Australia report that a 35-year-old woman was hospitalized for four days after experiencing muscle damage, swelling and nerve blockages in her legs after squatting for several hours while wearing tight-fitting denims.”

She had been helping a friend move, squatting while emptying cupboards. When she got up her feet were numb, making her trip and fall on her walk home. Unable to get up, she lay outside for several hours before getting to the hospital.

The woman recovered, but her story has appeared in The Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

The most extreme and tragic fashion accident that I’ve ever heard of happened before I was born. In 1927 famous American dancer Isadora Duncan, who lived and performed mostly in Europe, was killed in a car accident. Duncan was fond of wearing long, flowing scarves and she donned one for a ride in an open car in France. The scarf became entangled in the wheel spokes and axle of the vehicle, and her neck was broken.

That scarf must have been very long. Beware fashion extremes.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at [email protected]