In the midst of a disaster zone, why are we judging women on their shoes? 

Photo: Rex Features 

A week after Hurricane Harvey and Melania Trump’s stilettos have clocked up as many column inches as the disaster itself. Aren’t we missing the point, says Laura Craik 

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By Laura Craik on

What’s your trickiest wardrobe dilemma this week? After-work drinks with no chance to get changed anywhere but the office toilets? Quick 7am spin class before shimmying into a shift dress for a meeting with HR? Look on the bright side. At least you’re not Melania Trump. 

In the pantheon of clothing conundrums, it’s fair to say that What To Wear To A Disaster Zone is right up there with the worst. From the waist up, Melania looked very Top Gun. That’s what happens when you team a green MA1 flying jacket with a pair of aviators: Tom Cruise in drag. From the waist down, things were more perplexing. Less Top Gun and more Top French Fashion Editor Off To The Saint Laurent Show. All women know that an ankle-grazing trouser is the best trouser to showcase a sexy shoe. And boy, was this a sexy shoe. Four inch heels. Razor thin. Probably Manolo.  

In the pantheon of clothing conundrums, it’s fair to say that What To Wear To A Disaster Zone is right up there with the worst

I’d wear those to a cocktail party. That doesn’t mean I’m filled with ire towards Melania for wearing them to a disaster zone. Actually, my first reaction (after the surprise had faded) was one of pity. Here we go again. Let’s all get mad at Melania for daring to put a foot wrong, when her shiny tangerine bawbag of a husband is the real villain of the piece. “It’s sad that we have an active and ongoing natural disaster in Texas, and people are worried about her shoes,” said Mrs Trump’s spokesperson, in response to all the criticism. It’s a fair point. The reaction to her footwear choice is wholly, madly, deeply disproportionate to its importance in the narrative, which should first and foremost be focusing on the fact that 30 people lost their lives and 17,000 are currently sleeping in makeshift beds, their homes and livelihoods devastated. The devastation wreaked by 1 trillion gallons of water should really – pardon the pun – wash away any lingering obsession with Melania’s shoes.

Besides, what should she have worn? Should she have taken a leaf out of the Duchess of Cambridge’s book and donned some homely raffia wedges? How about some kitten heels? Or maybe a flat pump, a la Diana? Not in leopard print, though: we all know that leopard print shoes = Frivolous. Like Theresa May, it is Melania’s lot in life to be judged by her footwear, and found lacking. 

None of which negates the fact that those five inch heels were a perplexing choice for this particular occasion. Of course they were. But were they a choice that she was free to make? I honestly think Donald would freak out if Melania ever wore a lace-up brogue – even to survey the grizzly aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Were Melania ever to run a marathon, he’d probably make her do it in a tube dress and heels. I’d love to believe she changed into those white plimsolls without his blessing, but I doubt it. As one Twitter user put it: “Leave Melania and her shoes alone. She’s probably trapped in a way few of us understand.”

Fashion is all about nuance, and only a man like Donald Trump could fail to realise that the nuances of a needle-thin black snakeskin stiletto were all kinds of inappropriate for visiting the victims of a disaster zone. In the right context, they’re just a sexy shoe. In the wrong context, they’re a sexy shoe that reeks of vanity, pride and uselessness. As a wardrobe choice for Texas, they were a failure. But as a symbol of Trump’s failings, they’re spot on.


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Photo: Rex Features 
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