Quarantine Made Me Long for Painful High Heels

The fantasy repeats. I am in a crowd, nodding but only half listening to the conversation Painful High Heels. The liquid in my glass has warmed to an unappealing temperature. My feet hurt from impractical shoes — maybe heels, maybe some kind of heavy, embellished boot. I wave across the room at an acquaintance, and my stacks of bracelets bang against one another, distracting me momentarily from the pinching of an Painful High Heels bra that I will pre-emptively unhook in the taxi home.

Quarantine Made Me Long for Painful High Heels

How I long for such discomfort.

The torture devices of fashion, previously demonized as tools to disempower women (cocktail dresses, corsets, pantyhose, awkwardly sized handbags), have taken on a whole new cast in the pandemic.

What happens to that theory when the option to wear them is basically gone? And when the thirst to put them on appears on its own, uninfluenced by gaze or occasion, on a quiet Tuesday morning, while eating leftover takeout by the fridge between video calls? Locked down, we can appreciate what makes us feel free: what we want, what we miss.

Sometimes, it turns out, that is complex, troublesome fashion. Clothing that makes us feel something, even if it’s discomfort.

“I want big earrings,” Charlotte Goodhart, a British communications executive, said over WhatsApp recently. “Where your lobes end up puffy and sore. Cheap metal hoops, which I’ll taken off on the way home and hook together in my bag.”

“Imagine having a bit of your body exposed, a crop top — the cold air on the small of my back,” she went on effusively, like someone sexting a new partner. “When I was a teenager and I wore a crop top, if it was a bit cold, my dad would always say, ‘Oh your poor kidneys.’ I yearn for a frozen kidney.”