Women from the Ankle Down
The Story of Shoes and How They Define Us
By Rachelle Bergstein
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780061969614, 304pp.)
Publication Date: May 2012
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
Categories: Popular Culture - General
What is it about a pair of shoes that so enchants women of all ages, demographics, political affiliations, and style tribes? Part social history, part fashion record, part pop-culture celebration, Women from the Ankle Down seeks to answer that question as it unfolds the story of shoes in the twentieth century.
The tale begins in the rural village of Bonito, Italy, with a visionary young shoemaker named Salvatore Ferragamo and ends in New York City with a fictional socialite and trendsetter named Carrie Bradshaw. Along the way it stops in Hollywood, where Judy Garland first slipped on her ruby slippers; New Jersey, where Nancy Sinatra heard something special in a song about boots; and the streets of Manhattan, where a transit-worker strike propelled women to step into cutting-edge athletic shoes. Fashion aficionado Rachelle Bergstein shares the stories behind these historical moments, interweaving the design innovations and social changes that gave each one its lasting significance and appeal.
Bergstein shows how the story of shoes is the story of women, told from the ankle down. Beginning with the well-heeled suffragettes in the 1910s, women have fought for greater freedom and mobility, a struggle that exploded in the 1960s with the women's liberation movement and culminated in the new millennium with our devotion to personal choice. Featuring interviews with designers, historians, and cultural experts, and a cast of real-life characters, from Marilyn Monroe to Jane Fonda, from Gwen Stefani to Manolo Blahnik, Women from the Ankle Down is a lively, compelling look at the evolution of modern women and the fashion that reflectsand has shapedtheir changing lives.
Rachelle Bergstein graduated in 2003 from Vassar College, where she won awards for her academic writing. She works as an editorial consultant for a literary agency in New York City, and her writing has appeared in Fresh Yarn, The Awl, Slice magazine, and The Dirty Durty Diary. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, her cat, and her shoes. This is her first book.
“A fleet-footed social history.”
-Liesl Schillinger, New York Times
“A lively look at the history of stilettos, sneakers and sundry other leather- and rubber-soled objects of swoon.”
-Olivia Barker, USA Today
“If style defines the woman, and shoes a woman’s style, then ooh la la, here’s the definitive history and guide—everything from Chinese bound feet to Ferragamo, from Hollywood favorites to running up one’s credit card on the sine qua non of fashion.”
-Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don't Get Fat
“If you could glimpse the passing parade of the last hundred years or so from behind a slightly raised curtain, you’d have a pretty good idea of what’s going on in this richly anecdotal history of shoes.”
-Amanda Lovell, More Magazine
“Every woman who loves her shoes should read this book—hell—every man who loves women’s shoes should read this book….Informative, interesting, and just plain fun.”
-New York Journal of Books
“[Bergstein’s] entertaining book wears its research as lightly as a pair of strappy sandals.”
-Tricia Springstubb, Cleveland Plain Dealer
-Susannah Calahan, New York Post
“At last someone has dared to probe one of the most mystifying phenomena in our culture: what’s the deal with women and shoes? Rachelle Bergstein starts from the ground up and tells us—with wit and brio—a lot about society from an unusual and original perspective.”
-Ron Rosenbaum, author The Shakespeare Wars and How the End Begins:The Road to a Nuclear World War III
“As a woman who walks, I’ve often wondered why I don’t wear more sensible shoes. Now I know. Rachelle Bergstein has written a compulsively readable history: it won’t keep you from buying an absurdly uncomfortable and expensive pair, but it will make you understand why you’re doing it.”
-Ruth Reichl, author of Garlic and Sapphires
“[An] engaging, toe-to-heel study....From flats a la Audrey Hepburn, Keds and white go-go- boots, Tommy-era platforms, and Jane Fonda’s Reebok Freestyles, to Sex and the City’s pricey Manolo Blahniks and Jimmy Choo’s, Bergstein ably runs the gamut of styles over the decades…”
“An illuminating study of the history of women’s shoes in the 20th century….Wickedly provocative.”
“An entertaining journey through the social history of shoes and the people who have worn them....Well-written and well-referenced….Recommended to all fashion followers as well as those who enjoy the ankle-down approach to studying our high-end material culture.”
-Holly Hebert, Library Journal
“Engaging….A charmingly interwoven story of the past 100 years, detailing a bit of the psychology behind different styles as well as the fame that drives the fates of a variety of soles and heels.”