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Fashion

Does the state of the economy predict High heel height?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

The ripple effects of Covid-19 reached beyond the global economy. The fashion industry experienced significant alterations to its ingrained scheduled seasons. Even the biggest party of the year, the Met Gala wasn’t held on the first Monday of May in 2020. Global Fashion houses dealt with restrictions, logistics, and exposure when brainstorming how to fit their iconic designs in a new world with a new meaning of fashion. Many shows were broadcasted and live-streamed in the fall of 2020.

The second round of shows in March 2021 for Fall-Winter collections marked a shift in styles still suffused on Instagram feeds and red carpets.

One such show was the Versace’s Fall-Winter 2021 collection. It built a ladder to get over the crumbling walls of a pandemic-entrenched society. The already towering models donned variations of platform shoes as they pranced through a blocked and bulky maze set. The show opened with Gigi Hadid’s return to the (digital) runway after having her daughter, where she wore thick black platforms that models wore with their varying outfits, following a black, brown, and gold color scheme. The platforms ranged from ankle to calf length, including a heightened loafer for the male models with a carved sole to match the geometric pattern of the backdrop.

Just when it felt like all combinations of colors and shoes have been presented, the lights dim, and only the models’ silhouettes are seen in the literal house of Versace. When the video illuminates again, three of the industry’s top models– Bella Hadid, Rianne van Rompaey, and Mica Argañaraz– appear in slow motion. They are dressed in monochromatic looks of blushing Fuschia, arresting yellow, and fiery red. Each model wore a bandana, Versace patterned tights, and, of course, platforms. The synchronization of their fiercely graceful walks and swinging ankles brought in a new aspirational look for the world raging with pandemic-related droughts in trends.

Versace Trio: Bella Hadid, Rianne van Rompey, and Mica Argañaraz

At the time of Versace’s debut of nose-bleeding platform heels in March 2021, the global economy was raking in more and more repercussions of the first world of the pandemic.

On the same day of the live stream, on March 5th 2021, Pew Research Center published an investigation of U.S. public opinions of the pandemic in its first year. The group cited that “unemployment rose more quickly within the first three months of the pandemic than it did in the first two years of the Great Recession.” Additionally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the rise in Consumer Price Index at the end of March 2021 was “the largest over-the-year increase since August 2018.”

This is all to reveal that over the last 100 years, there is speculation of an inverse relationship between an economic downturn with a rise of high heel heights. Platform shoes were initially introduced into American society in the 1930’s, coinciding with the Great Depression. Salvatore Ferragamo, a highly regarded designer, put this new shoe form on the map when he took inspiration from the 1939 film Wizard of Oz to create a sandal called “The Rainbow” for Judy Garland’s song Over the Rainbow.

The 1970’s saw a bold use of the heightening shoe as an attention grabber during the disco era. During this decade, the U.S. oil crisis lent a hand to the shoe’s resurgence.

Despite the evidence, the swarm of opinions around the fashion choices of women push people to disregard these correlations as failed attempts to make meaning out of nothing.

Taking into account that the unpredictability of fashion trends and the economy, maybe it is not the economic state that drives the new seasons trends, but instead those emotions that circulate during periods of crisis. When society feels unstable with the hurdles thrown in their paths at every step, it’s expected to desire an escape. A fantasy mindset can take the real form of lavish and irrational items of clothing like platforms.

Platforms, while they seem hard to balance, elevate the wearer above the world that is continuously shaking. Platform lovers are shifting their center of balance and elevating their point of view to get a break from the world that seems to be failing at everything.

In the time since the Versace FW 2021 fashion show, more brands like Prada and Ugg have taken note and decided to embrace the need to live above the uncertain world by raising their shoe heights. Celebrities of this post-Covid (is it really over though) era like Olivia Rodrigo at most public appearances are showing up in sky high platforms.

Going against fad-claimers, Versace has continuously reprised their FW 2021 platforms in their collections since, tweaking the design to push new styles. As well as proving that the platform is here to stay, during the economy’s uncertainty.

Ellie Perrin

West Chester '26

Ellie is a first-year Media and Culture major at West Chester University of Pennsylvania where she is planning on pursuing a career in the arts. She is constantly scribbling in her "idea" journal her unique observations of the world and her role in it. With interests ranging from reading Fitzgerald to Vogue or from watching A Clockwork Orange to Trisha Paytas Tiktoks, Ellie's writing comes from a holistic perspective. She is excited to use her world view for her writing and add to her portfolio.