Ever since I was little, I dreamed of wearing shoes that would make me feel tall, graceful and, more importantly, feminine. Looking back, I don’t know why I associated high heels with femininity. Perhaps it was because, as a young girl, I wanted to look just like Barbie — and none of my Barbies ever had anything but high heels. Or maybe it was the fact that all of the women that I ever saw on TV wore high heels, too. They made wearing them look so effortlessly natural that I couldn’t help believing that it was, in fact, a natural choice of shoe for women. This fed into my notion of what femininity is and how it can be expressed, so much so that high heels became the epitome of feminine beauty and the power that came with it.
I started to believe that women have to dress a certain way to fit the carefully constructed, and perpetually controlled image of femininity, so I wore dresses, skirts, high heels — and just about anything else that would meet the expectations of my gender identity. Yet it was always high heels that dictated the way I saw myself. Without them, I felt powerless, no longer beautiful.
Some women go through many painful procedures to feel beautiful, and I was no different.
But what’s the point of power, if it causes you nothing but pain? I thought that pain was the price of power. After all, some women go through many painful procedures to feel beautiful, and I was no different. I once spent an entire day walking around in a pair of heels that left my feet blistering and bleeding so much that the scars left took months to heal. That didn’t stop me from wearing those shoes again, though. Wearing heels until my feet looked like they’ve been through war was just a normal day for me. I didn’t mind.
It took me a long time to understand that femininity can be defined in many different ways, that there are no rules — only my own. I can’t remember the day that everything changed, but eventually I realised that the only thing more painful than wearing heels was pretending that they empowered me. Even though wearing heels did add height and a level of grace and sophistication, I started to question if I truly needed them to feel beautiful, powerful, and feminine.
I never thought that I could feel so confident, so feminine — and in a pair of Converse!
So, enough was enough: I ordered one pair of flat shoes (you know, just to try it), and soon I was buying another, and another, and another. It was nice to be able to walk and not be so painfully aware of my feet all the time. I never thought that I could feel so confident, so feminine — and in a pair of Converse! My sense of clothing style was beginning to change too. I learned that I really enjoy wearing trousers and that, actually, I like wearing trousers more. Don’t get me wrong, I still like dresses and skirts, I just no longer feel confined to them. And as for heeled shoes: who knows if I’ll ever wear them again? If I do, I won’t let them define me, my self-worth, or my sense of beauty. No pair of shoes should ever be given that much power.
All images by Margarita Ivanova