Rule: flatter shoes can be as chic as towering torture chambers

In Celebrities, Famous people, High heels, Shoes on January 26, 2012 at 1:58 pm

BLOGGER’S NOTE:  this post pissed a lot of people off, so I’ve amended parts of it – on the specific advice of the people who got in touch and told me what they didn’t like and why. I’m very grateful to them. I stand by my opinions, but I would never knowingly use offensive terms about particular groups of people.

I’ve also nipped and tucked it in a few other places, because if so many different groups of people got the wrong idea, then that means I didn’t write it well enough in the first place. I think it’s clearer now.

I’ve never thought of Dita von Teese as a bastion of women’s rights. In fact I’m proudly old school feminist about the whole ‘burlesque’ revival. It makes me really uncomfortable. It’s just a fancy name for striptease, which encourages the acceptance of looking at women as objects. I don’t accept it as ‘stylish’.

In fact I’m convinced the whole thing is part of a New World Order global conspiracy of Stepford Wives fundamentalists (a word which, I now realise, spookily contains the sub words ‘men’ and ‘mental’…), who are also behind the current trend for very young women to wear the style celebrated in TOWIE, Desperate Scousewives etc – more make up and hairspray than a young Priscilla Presley (below) and higher heels than the most outrageous drag queen.

Well, obviously not, but I do wonder why we have casually allowed these repressive looks back into the lexicon of style. I really worry about the human Barbie dolls currently being held up to my little girl as the ideal of female aspiration. And not just for looks – for life.

All up, I’m really looking forward to the backlash to the false lash, when we’ll all be challenging 1970s Lauren Hutton again, rather than 1960s Danny La Rue.

Phew, glad I got all that out, now back to Dita. While her choice of career confuses me, I have always admired her style. She’s one of the most elegant and immaculately turned out women in the world. But my respect for her chic ranked up a whole new notch, when I saw the picture at the top – and others – of her wearing her signature groomed style, but with shoes you could drive a bus in, let alone run for one. And not in a caught coming out of the gym way (although I believe she was fresh from pilates in some of these…), but as part of a gorgeous planned outfit. Hurray!

Not because I don’t love high heels – I have a large collection myself – but I can’t wear them all day every day and I feel intimidated by the pressure to do so. At the Paris and Milan fashion shows (which I covered for many years as a magazine editor-in-chief and later as a newspaper fashion writer) it’s almost like a gladitorial contest, who can wear the highest shoes for the totter from the limo into the venue and out again.

So to see Dita wearing flats with all the elegance she wears her heels is a real inspiration.

And she gets another big gold star for the bag she’s carrying in the top photo here.

It’s the Saigon style by venerable Paris luggage brand Goyard, (older than Louis Vuitton and much more discreet), which is a great choice in itself and she’s had it amusingly emblazoned with her monogram. So that’s all good, but what I really love is that there are loads of pictures on the internet of her carrying this particular bag with different outfits.

She’s using it as an investment piece, her go-to bag, that she carries every day, just like a real person – rather than yet another cashed-up meta-consumer showing off yet another of her box fresh Birkins. (Bernie Ecclestone’s daughter, Tamara, has a special room for hers…)

Flat shoes and cost-per-wear? Dita, you’ve won me over.

  1. Bravo! A most excellent column. I am so pleased to be receiving them again — did I miss many? Who knows what happens?
    If you wan to be seriously scared, check out the most dull Mrs. Romney and the not so dull but frightful in her way, Mrs. Gingrich. At least Callista knows how to wear clothes. Give me Michelle Obama any day.
    I love the photos of this attractive young woman – hoorah for flat shoes and her fabulous bag. Wow. Nice to see such.
    Pop culture in the U.S. is grim just now. Not much to get excited about in the way of clothes and real fashion (or taste).
    Cheerio from across the pond!

  2. Great post. As a long term devotee of the flat shoe, it’s great to see such stylish outfits featuring the flat!
    Keep ’em coming Maggie!
    Also, when is your next Oz book tour?

  3. Dear Maggie, I am pretty much with you on the burlesque thing and definitely with you on the TOO MUCH MAKEUP thing. Its all about fear of having a shot posted on facebook and not looking like an ad for a porno character is a computer game. Even here at Bondi, straight off the beach, FULL MAKEUP WITH LASHES, shorts and grubby thongs on their feet (like they are literally walking around with a mask on!).
    Take a quick look at: http://www.what should I
    and see who is on the January Style Panel (in the Blog section)
    Thanks and regards,
    PS Love Dita for the flatties and who in their right mind doesn’t have a decent pair or two but man oh man, can the hair colour get any darker? Way too harsh for daylight outings.

  4. You are entitled to your conservative opinion. Most women would find it offensive that another woman thinks a naked woman is not “stylish”. As a Feminist (NOT a misogynist nor a misandrist) and a clothing ‘expressionist’, I find your point of view… gauche.

    I agree with you regarding Dita. Thank goodness for women like her who don’t judge women like you. I’m not that gracious.

    You need to read this;

    “Pink Light Burlesque, a free program for breast cancer survivors, helps women reclaim and celebrate their bodies — to the delight of an audience. “I felt so empowered,” Burke says of her performance. “We are survivors and we want to celebrate that by overcoming the very thing that scares us — taking our clothes off in public!”

    • Pink Light Burleqsque sounds amazing – I’m all for women feeling empowered by their own bodies, it’s just the 1950s trappings of burlesque that make me uncomofortable… Those were not good times to be a woman, I don’t want to turn the sexual politics clock back to then. Thanks for commenting x

  5. I so agree Maggie. The current stripper/fetish shoes are a really bad look, especially with the hair/makeup extremes the teens are indulging in – the Essex look has spread around the world. While I am not a fan of burlesque either, I think Dita’s style is fantastic – I like that she also doesn’t spray herself orange but has her pale legs untouched. There’s something in that for us Aussies.

  6. Dita has actually proudly stated that she lives within her means on twitter, with the hashtag #IDontOwnABirkinBag 😉

  7. How hopelessly retrograde to sneeringly slut-shame and deny agency to women in stripping under the guise of “feminism”. As a feminist, a sex worker and an occasional burlesque performer, I resent the implication I am nothing more than an object or that my work – whether in burlesque or sex work – encourages objectification- with no further complexity, narrative or dynamic.

    As if it isn’t enough that sex workers have to deal with those in the burlesque industry denying that burlesque is strip tease with sneering whorephobic classism, now so-called “feminists” deride burlesque by calling it a “fancy name” for strip tease. With sneering whorephobic classism.
    Both sides demonstrate hopeless ignorance of not only the history of burlesque – it was the FIRST form of striptease and stripping has always been inherent to it – but the agency, self-determination and awareness of strippers and other sex workers.

    This is patently ANTI-feminist, as one of the guiding rules of feminism is the recognition of a woman’s autonomy and capacity to choose her path – even if you, Maggie, don’t like it.

    Furthermore, you police women’s bodies and images with snide remarks about “too much makeup”, or big hair, or styles of dress – exactly who ARE you, if you believe in women’s rights, to deny womens’ ability and right to express themselves visually in whatever means they see fit? Why would you presume that women are so stupid they’re merely “taken in” and “manipulated” by advertising and marketing? Has it ever occurred to you some women LOVE looking like “drag queens”? That for some women the artifice of exaggerated femininity is fun – is enjoyable – is a very conscious and deliberate ownership of a constructed image? Or is your own insecurity in the face of such brazen self-determination so threatened you can only conceptualise it as helplessness? Not very feminist. At all.

    Finally, you round it all off with a grotesque example of transphobia with your reference to “trannie hookers”. “Trannie” is a highly perjorative term, associated with violence and murder against trans women, and is not a term to use casually or flippantly – unless you want to imply you hate trans women and have no empathy or consideration for the particular discrimination they face – which is VERY closely connected to misogyny, is actually an aspect of misogyny.

    And as someone whose worked the street – extremely high heels aren’t suitable. But way to perpetuate an ignorant stereotype!

    This kind of misogyny, whorephobia, transphobia and prejudice dressed up as “feminism” doesn’t serve anyone, Maggie. And YOU should know better.

    If you wanted to express YOUR personal preference for flat shoes, I’m sure you could’ve done it without insulting a whole bunch of other women (inculding trans women – who are also women, Maggie).

    Seriously, Dita has “won you over” by wearing flat shoes and carrying the same bag? If only you could read any number of intelligent and insightful things this woman has said that go far beyond the regular wearing of flat shoes – surprise, surprise, Dita is an independent woman who has her own strong opinions, a variety of life experience that have informed her decisions, sexual, financial, business and social autonomy and – GASP – is able to choose her footwear – and openly admits to adoring towering stilettos, all by her own widdle self! But, no, instead all you need to do is reduce Dita to the clothes she wears and she becomes worthwhile to you? How strangely like the sexist standards you proclaim to be against!

    Frankly, I’d rather be dressed by any one of Sydney’s esteemed drag queens than wear anything dubbed “stylish” by you.

    • Hi Starlet
      Thanks for your long comment. You make a lot of very good points.

      I wish I could turn back the clock and never have posted this damn thing. I never meant to offend anyone, or be seen to be judging other women’s decisions. I just thought DVT looked really chic in flat shoes (as she always does in heels) and thought it would inspire up all the women who feel ‘less than’ for not wearing hight heels all the time.

      I don’t even ‘prefer’ flat shoes. I just wear them during most days – or a low heel – for practicality. For the evening, special events, I’m a heel nut.

      And I am rea;u not transphobic – it was very stupid of me to use that term in a throwaway line. I regret it. Have you seen the magazine Candy? I’ve written about it before – it’s a transversal fashion magazine, where gender is completely oblitereated as a concept and I think it’s the most exciting fashion magazine in the world right now. Here are a couple of links:

      So yes, I let myself – and my tightly held beliefs – down with a stupid lazy sterotypical line.

      Your point that ‘for some women the artifice of exaggerated femininity is fun – is enjoyable – is a very conscious and deliberate ownership of a constructed image’ is very interesting. I think you’re absolutely right. But I’m just disturbed by the very young women I see adopting this style, in a more passive way – more ‘this is how I am supposed to look…’ peer pressure.

      Anyway, Starlet. You told me and you told me good – I wish I’d kept my trap shut.



  8. The current burlesque revival (which has been going on since the 1990s really) has little to do with the ‘tranny’ make up and stripper heels. I’d put that down to Keeping up with the Kardashians. Dita of course performs in heels, but in Louboutins which are not what I would call ‘stripper’ shoes. Nor does she wear much make up off stage. Red lipstick sure. Powder and foundation, definitely. But how is that different from the spray tan craze or a ton of lip gloss? It’s just a different style of makeup that looks more done than the faux natural look that generally seems to be in style.

    And on the note that burlesque is about the objectification of women. Do you believe women only wear high heels or a pretty dress to attract men? I don’t think so. In the same light, as a burlesque performer, I do not take my clothes off to arouse men nor do I see myself as objectified. Outside the acts themselves and the stories they tell or moods they conjure, I think burlesque shows the beauty of the female form in all its glory. Youtube Dirty Martini, Julie Atlas Muz, Anna Fur Laxis or locally Imogen Kelly, Tasia, Lillian Starr. It’s stripping, but it’s not all stripping.

    • Hi Grace
      Thanks for taking the time to comment on here. While it’s not alway easy to read criticism, the thing I love about blogging is the chance to talk things over and hear other views.

      I can’t tell you how much I regret a stupid lazy reference to ‘trannies’ and their stereotypical shoes styles, in the same piece where I mention my reservations about burlesque. It seems to have caused a kind of chemical reaction of offending everybody.

      I’m not criticising DVT’s style – I think she is amazing. Probably the best turned out woman in the world right now – and I love that she never lets it slip. As I say, in some of these pictures she’s coming out of the gym. She’s so utterly professional, like an old schol movie star and the image never slips.

      I intended this to show her as a positive role model – look, we all associate her with high heels, but doesn’t she look great in flats too? To inspire women who don’t want to, or can’t, wear heels.

      There have been some really interesting comments specifically about burlesque. I’ve talked it over with lots of my girlfriends and there seems to be a broad range of opinions. Some of my friends love it, some loathe it – some like me, feel uncomfortable and confused. But if you love it and feel empowered by it – good on you.

      Once again, thanks so much for commenting.

      best Maggie

  9. Maggie, I also prefer flats over heels. But there’s no need to go hating on every other demographic of woman who isn’t you. Next time, try writing an article that isn’t so steeped in discrimination and elitism. Geez.

    • HI Kelly
      Sorry I annoyed you… I don’t hate any women! And I love high heels. Just not all the time. I wanted to share DVT’s masterclass in looking so chic and polished in them.

      Thanks for taking the time to post a comment. It’s what I love about blogging, hearing other opinions.

      best Maggie

  10. Dear Maggie,

    Whorephobia and transphobia is neither chic, stylish nor clever.

    It’s ignorant, classist, and further marginalises people who are already thought of by mainstream society as less-than human.

    What makes you think that trans people and sex workers don’t read your blog?

    • Hi Simone
      You’re right – it was a stupid throwaway line and I sincerely regret allowing such an obvious cliche into my head, let alone my writing.

      I have given my own wrists a good slap.

      Thanks for taking the trouble to comment.

      best Maggie

  11. nice one on the stereotyping

    “who are also behind the current trend for young women to wear more make up and hairspray than a young Priscilla Presley (below) and higher heels than a trannie hooker.”

  12. I’m sorry wearing heels is a personal choice! It does not make young girls look like Drag Queens who are really gay men! Such association is quite demeaning! As to flats, well I don’t think they look very good unless its real casual. As to stereotyping your photos are so stereotypical of conservative women!

  13. Wow, Maggie. I hate those towering heels too. I’m in awe of anyone who can walk in them. I’m sure if I tried my hip and back would be out for days.
    However, I think it’s actually possible to write an article praising flat shoes without transphobic and whorephobic comments slung in to hold the readers’ attention. Is your writing not good enough to hold our attention without those cheap shots? That’s just lazy and hateful writing.
    You have a platform for speaking out provided to you via the media. How about trying to be a little smarter and cleverer with it. Now THAT would be Old School Feminism.

  14. There is so much in this article that I find incredibly offensive but I wanted to start by addressing a major fallacy that I constantly see perpetuated everywhere. Flat shoes are just as bad for your feet, and often WORSE than heels. About 6 years ago, I suffered from plantar fasciitus every couple of months. It’s an incredibly painful inflammation of the soft fleshy outer part of your foot which makes it very difficult to walk. Surprise, surprise, it was caused by wearing ballet flats on a daily basis, particularly wearing them on hard surfaces like concrete and bitumen (which comprises most walking surfaces!). After my 3rd visit to my Dr with it in as many months, he laid down the law to me and said absolutely no ballet flats, and advised me to wear nothing less than a 1.5 inch heel.

    It’s an incredible struggle these days to find a cute pair of decently priced shoes that isn’t a ballet flat or a stiletto heel! I have no doubt that this is in part due to this stupid belief that flat shoes are more comfortable and better for you. I feel the same way about heels as I do about corsets; if they’re fitted well, they’re incredibly comfortable to wear on a daily basis. Two things that get an incredibly bad rap as being uncomfortable, but really aren’t. I have a small selection of cute heels, between 2 and 3 inches, which I have no trouble wearing on a daily basis (including dance classes!). The few times in the last couple years that I’ve tried wearing ballet flats (with the vain hope that perhaps their design has changed enough to be comfortable), I’ve barely managed an hour or two before my feet were in agony. Obviously, not everyone is going to have as bad a reaction to flats as I do, but there is definitely evidence out there that shows how damaging flat shoes are. If we just had access to shoes with small heels (that aren’t orthopaedic specialist shoes), perhaps this fallacy wouldn’t be so wide-spread.

    Now that that’s out of the way, lets get to the more offensive parts of this article. I’m a proud feminist and devotee of vintage fashion. I feel the most comfortable and the best about myself when I’m wearing my winged eyeliner, my red lippie, a cute outfit with heels, and my hair curled in the manner of the 40’s and 50’s. I never leave the house without first applying sunscreen, blush and mascara, at an absolute minimum. How DARE you insult, belittle and demean MY choices, especially from behind the shield of ‘feminism’. Last time I checked, feminism was all about CHOICE. Giving women the space to be able to choose how they want to live their life, without limitations due to gender. How is dressing in a manner that makes you feel good about yourself ‘anti-feminist’? These looks are hardly deserving of your judgement of them as ‘repressive’. As someone who has been dressing in such a manner WAY before it was ‘in’, I copped plenty of abuse from the fashionista set for daring to step outside what was considered fashionable. I can’t tell you how absolutely freeing and EMPOWERING it was to be a very pale girl (flying against the tanned trend) wearing these beautiful girly dresses combined with my full face of make-up, and absolutely NOT give a damn about what other people thought of me or the judgments people like you were making about how I dressed. And for the record, my look is NOT high maintenance, nor does it take me especially long to look as perfectly put together as Dita. It is something I do FOR MYSELF, because it makes me feel good, not because I feel pressured by outside forces, or because I’m worried a picture will end up on Facebook, or because I’m trying to hook a man. So it’s certainly not repressive in that respect either.

    Following that train of thought, burlesque is also incredibly empowering, and hardly anti-feminist; I think you’re confusing your own moral reservations and judgements with feminist ideals. To reduce this wonderful art form, one that celebrates femininity and the female form, to such simplistic terms as ‘objectification of women’ is disrespectful to the women of burlesque, past, present and future. I really think you should educate yourself about the history of burlesque, as it has such a rich past that is full of strong women making political statements, taking back the ownership of their bodies and their sexuality. Regardless of your own moral aversions to striptease (and yes, burlesque IS stripping and anyone who says otherwise is in denial), these women are an incredible inspiration, and embody feminist ideals. Dita Von Teese is an incredibly intelligent woman, who many look up to, for far more than her impeccable style. She’s a savvy business woman, an incredibly creative artist, a woman who promotes positive body image and self love, who dares women to be different, step outside the mould, reclaim their sexuality and do things that make them feel good. Hardly anti-feminist!

    The very act of policing women’s bodies, passing your own judgement on other people’s choices of fashion, make-up and footwear, THAT is anti-feminist. It only serves to promote the very misogyny that we’ve been fighting against for so long. You have absolutely no right to put your own value judgements on other people, deciding why it is they’re choosing to dress in a certain manner. Unless, of course, you’ve specifically spoken to said people, and determined that they’re just mindless sheep, forced into these choices by those evil outside forces, conspiring against feminism! As a self proclaimed feminist, you really ought to know better.

    • Hi Abigail
      Thanks for your very long and considered comment. I really appreciate you taking the time to tell what you think – and it is what I love about blogging, that there is the scope to talk things through.

      First of all can I say that I think your style sounds amazing and I really admire women who can achieve a polished look like that on a daily basis. I’m not putting your look down at ALL. Or Miss DVT’s either. I think she looks superb, always. It’s all part of what makes her such a professional. She was leaving the gym in some of those pics…

      I just came across all the pics of her looking equally amazing in different shoe heights – they’re not all ultra flat ballerinas, which I find uncomfortable too (and I’ve written about it many times) – and I thought it was really inspiring. Especially for all the women who can’t wear towering heels for various reasons. I love high heels and love to wear them in the evening and to special events, but I just can’t wear them every day.

      When I talked about young women looking like drag queens, I meant the Kim Kardashian/Katie Price style, which seems to be epidemic among young women, not the retro style that you describe.

      My comments about burlesque are a separate issue. I have mixed feelings about it – some of which I think are a result of my age. As I’ve said in a reply above I was a teenageer in the mid-70s when it was normal for total strangers to comment on your body as you walked past, in explicit sexual terms. It was really unpleasant and one of the many achievements of feminism is that – young women tell me – it doesn’t happen so much any more. Not gone entirely, but no longer ‘normal’ and accepted.

      Some of my friends of my own age love burlesque, though, so it’s a personal thing. I just don’t feel comfortable with it, although some of the comments I’ve read today are making me think about it some more.

      Once again, thanks for telling your thoughts. I really enjoyed reading them.


      • As my former burlesque performing/Dominatrix pal, Scarlett D’Vine says in response to young girls adopting the “Kardashian” look: ” So, well-fitted designer gowns and great makeup, then?”

  15. Everything you said : )

  16. Oh Maggie. How I adore you. Thank you for speaking out against those horrible, and unfortunately, currently ubiquitous, ‘stripper’ shoes, and also the culture of doing yourself up to look like the main attraction from a club of dubious entertainments. I’m a hobby dancer myself (middle eastern dance – have performed at local and national festivals), and although I respect certain classic and indie burlesque performers/troupes, I find it hard to credit a lot of burlesque as a legitimate artform rather than gratuitous titillation. And don’t even get me started on the striptease and pole-dancing crazes – sorry, but if it were really about fitness/athleticism/art, you would be doing gymnastics, ballet or aerial. And if you only knew how guys laugh up their sleeves about it all…
    I think Dita looks great in these pictures, and massive props to her for reusing wardrobe items. She looks to have very beautiful feet – good karma for wearing flatties? 🙂

  17. Maggie you are singing to the choir! I am with you on all points.

  18. What’s the problem, Maggie? I know for a fact you’ve received more than one slamming critique for this woman-hating post, yet the only ones you’re approving are the bum-crawly ones? Afraid of criticism? Surely someone who’s been in the media biz as long as you have can cop a little dressing-down.

    That you can approve Jasmine’s brown-nosing without regard for how incredibly classist and anti-feminist and woman-hating it is just indicative of what’s really motivating you here: hate and prejudice. To allow something as classist as “And don’t even get me started on the striptease and pole-dancing crazes – sorry, but if it were really about fitness/athleticism/art, you would be doing gymnastics, ballet or aerial” to go through just because that commenter is kissing your butt is gross. Because it’s not as if pole-dancing is perhaps made to seem more accessible than ballet, gymnastics and aerial (speaking as someone who has studied all four arts)? Or perhaps women just want to do something that makes them feel sexy? Oh but we should laugh and ridicule them right, cos women shouldn’t feel sexy – that just makes them hopeless victims of the patriarchy? And sexy woman are disgusting sluts, right?

    Are you lot seriously so intimidated and threatened by this sort of woman that you would pass your little bitch-fest off as fashion critique?

    That’s pathetic.

    • I turned off my computer at 9 pm last night (GMT) and didn’t turn it on again until about 4pm today… The first clue I had of these comments was when I checked email on my phone and saw that lots of comments had come through. I couldn’t answer them on there.

      I certainly didn’t screen out the critical ones, I never have and if you look down this blog you’ll see the rough and the smooth up for all to see.


    • Fitness is a big part of my life, so when striptease and pole dance started being heavily touted as ‘fun and fitness’ in popular culture a few years ago, I tried striptease lessons to see if there was anything in it for me. I found it utterly ineffective as exercise, and the environment made me feel uncomfortable and seedy. Comparing this to friends and people in the media raving about how great it was, made me wonder if someone was taking the mickey. Subsequent discussions here and there showed me that I wasn’t alone in wondering.
      I couldn’t help comparing how, for me personally, it had fallen so far short of gymnastics and ballet, both of which I studied for years. I’m afraid I just cannot take the others as seriously – but everyone has to make up their own mind.
      Seeing the shoes around the place is a rueful reminder of feeling like the joke was on me. Also, I find a lot of those big shoes ugly, regardless of any social significance.
      Probably could have expressed that better in my initial post.

      • My own friends – feminists and not – are really divided about this issue. Some love it as ‘fun’, some think it’s empowering, but others – like me – find it confusing. I love the idea of the burlesque group for women who’ve had mastectomies, but I can’t quite settle my head about the styling coming from an era when women were so abused and oppressed by men. I sometimes think it’s my age – growing up when it was fine to comment on a 14 year old girl’s breasts in the street – but have friends my age who love burlesque. So it’s just a matter of personal opinion… Thanks for your insights x

  19. Maggie- I am curious to how many burlesque shows you have been too? I doubt any.
    I don’t think I have seen any Stepford wives types on the stage- unless it was a show deliberately mocking it.
    Yes some performers are very beautiful and some wear a lot of makeup. But I see women of all shapes and sizes (including myself who is well above a size 14) on the stage and beauty is not a prerequisite. What is, is the ability to entertain. Send me a message or check out my blog and I would be happy to recommend some shows.

    I also find it odd that you criticize the Stepford wife look and stripper heels when most of your book covers (which I have bought and thoroughly enjoy) feature extremely thin women and stripper style shoes…

    I do hope you post my comment! Opinions come in all shapes and sizes too…

    • Hi Cherry
      Thank you so much for your very thoughtful comment. I really appreciate you taking the time to post it.

      I’ve only seen one live burlesque show and have had a look at some others on line. I do like to hear what you say about celebrating women of different shapes and sizes – and Dusk Devi higher up posted a link about burlesque by women who’ve had mastectomies, which I think is amazingly positive. So maybe you’re right, I just don’t know enough about it.

      I think in all honesty, it’s partly my age… I’m 52 and remember so clearly being a young woman in the 1970s when feminism was just taking off and how all women used to be treated as objects for sexual appraisal. It was so horrible not to be able to walk down the street without some stranger commenting loudly on your body… not to mention in the workplace. As a little girl I remember going to the garage with my mum and being confused by all the tit pictures pasted on the walls.

      I think for women who have grown up post-feminism, that all seems like the distant past, but for me it’s a vivid and horrible memory. So anything to do with straight men looking at naked women makes me uncomfortable.

      If burlesque is making women feel more in charge of their own bodies, that has to be good, but the 1950s mood of what i’ve seen confirmed my discomfort with it – almost as if it wanted to hark back to those days, which were really not great for women.

      Phew! I’m going to blog in reponse to all this, but wanted to reply in person to you.

      • Hi Maggie,
        Thanks for the reply!
        It is actually interesting that i grew up a child of that generation. In the 90’s I was taught that to succeed you had to be like a man. Not stand out. Conform…
        I was afraid of standing out and consequently dressed in jeans and tshirts 99% of the time.
        Burlesque was what freed me from being ashamed of being a woman.

        Yes there is a lot of burlesque which is pretty girls taking clothes off. The human body is gorgeous and there is no shame in appreciating it.

        A large percentage (even a majority of audiences) at shows are women! It is not necessarily a sexual gaze they or even many of the men have. It is an appreciation. Men also perform burlesque! ( (And the women in the audiences holler at the men a LOT more then the men do at the women!). 🙂


      • Well – that explains a LOT. If young women were to taught that to succeed they had to hid their femininity that is NUTS and no wonder you all hanker after the Vargas girl ideal…

        I think it’s a very complicated and fasciating issue – even with friends of my age opinions vary widely. I find that the women who agree with me, it’s very clear cut, we feel exactly the same aboutit, but for the ones who like it there is a whole spectrum of reasons. I’m not ‘against’ it, I don’t think it should be banned or anything, I’m just not going to pretend to love it because it’s fashionable.

        And interesting what you say about the women hollering at the men – I’ve never thought male striptease evened it all out – but then I love looking at that video of David Beckham!!! So it’s complex and interesting stuff and I think it all has a long way to go yet until it all sits easily.


  20. Once again you have articulated what’s been bugging me – women dressing like drag queens. And the stripper shoes!

    I reckon it’s easy to look great in flats if you know how to work it – so much so that my site is even called ‘Fox in Flats’!

  21. I’m sorry, but I don’t think you should scrutinize Dita Von Teese just because she wears heels and like to wear lingerie. To some women, it’s empowering to feel beautiful and done up. I see nothing wrong with wearing heels and makeup, yes, even if it’s daily.

    I live in Tokyo and it’s almost a crime to not go out looking done up. Everyone puts on their best suit when out in public. You NEVER see someone just walking about in sweats..unless you are a tourist. You see women chasing after the next train in high heels, it’s almost sport. And yes, you see young girls completely made up called gyarus, but they’re not trannies. They’re complimented daily for their artistic abilities with their clothes, makeup and high heels just as Dita Von Teese is seen as a fashion icon.

    • Hi Mari
      Thanks for taking the trouble to comment on here.

      I love and admire women who dress beautifully and maintain a very high standard of grooming – like DVT, who is one of the greatest exponents of that style. That’s why I was so delighted to see her looking equally amazing in flat shoes. It’s like a masterclass in making flats look chic.

      I just don’t feel comfortable with the competitive element of high heel wearing, like you’re not trying hard enough if you don’t wear them all the time. Some women just can’t wear them.

      best Maggie

  22. Maggie, Maggie, what happened to you. Living in a cold climate and wearing too many cardigans? Don’t like killer heels, don’t like burlesque, don’t like girsl who want to glam up, and you even take a shot at drag queens ( and you were a Sydney girl ! ).
    We can all look back at pics of our youth and laugh at what we went out in. I can’t wear killer heels any more, but i think the lovely Dita, a top professional in her field and very astute business woman looks gorgeous in the pics you’ve put up. Write a story on the current Burlesque girls, they are the feisty feminists of now. Start with Dirty Martini, now there’s a woman.

    • I love killer heels! I still wear them – I just don’t like the idea that women should wear them all the time… And looking at the pics of DVT was like a masterclass how to make flats look fabulous.

      I have misgivings about burlesque – many women do – but Michelle, up from here a bit, made some good points, which I am mulling over. I’m just expressing my opinions.

      I don’t know about Dirty Martini the girl, but it’s my favourite drink.

      Thanks for responding with such verve and wit. Maggie x

  23. As a Stripper and Burlesque Performer and mother, I was so put off by your ‘proud old school feminist’ ideals. From the very first sentence in this article, you have insulted my life, my choices, my art, all I hold dear.
    And you call yourself a Feminist?

    Was this supposed to be a serious article? Do you actually get paid to do this? Gossip and Police what others wear?! And you think all strippers and burlesque performers have been somehow MK Ultra-ed into Sex Kitten Programming?…. (are you serious about the whole Fundamentalists ‘men’ and ‘mental’? do some research into etymology PLEASE!)

    If you want to self identify as a Feminist, maybe you should search a little deeper into what that means.

    We are meant to be sisters. We are meant to help each other up, not pull everyone down. We should be breaking the patriarchy and dispelling rape culture and legalising abortion and educating others and a million other things other than what your article does.

    You are hurting people by doing this. Just think a little harder about what you are saying.

    • Hi Viviane Mae
      I’m sorry you hated my article. Thanks for taking the time to read it and to respond on here.

      I do call myself a Feminist – and I think there is a very wide range of opinions about burlesque within the group of women proud to apply that term to ourselves. Just talking to my own friends, some are very pro burlesque, some much more anti than me.

      Michelle, who send in the comment above yours, made some very interesting points about choice, which I think is really valid.



  24. I realise this column is intended to be light-hearted and such, but some of what you’re saying feels a little off to me.

    First of all, I don’t really like the way you talk about trans* people, drag queens and sex workers. These are groups of people in very fragile social circumstances who deserve respect regardless of their sexuality, gender identity or profession. You use their chosen labels against them like adjectives for ‘disgusting’ and ‘immoral’, and I find it insulting. You may not realise, but you’re inadvertently reinforcing an intense hatred towards undeserving people by disdainfully referring to them in such ways:

    – “…higher heels than a trannie hooker…”

    – “Real young women now seem to aspire to look like drag queens and I find it all very confusing, as I’ve always been a bit conflicted whether that particular aesthetic celebrated or insulted women in the first place.”

    You may want to be a bit more careful about how you refer to trans* people. Trans* people and drag queens are NOT the same, and so the words “trannie” and “drag queen” are not at all interchangeable.

    I can sort of forgive your mention of drag queens, because they do have a very intense aesthetic and they set themselves up to be mocked; but trans* folk don’t deserve to be mocked because of their appearance. They have to go through a lot of physical and emotional crap because of their gender-sex displacement, and we shouldn’t be making it harder for them by using their label as a synonym for ‘gross’, and as a way to hate on an ugly pair of shoes. Imagine how that makes them feel.

    Anyway, enough on that (although I could go on about why drag queens and sex workers also deserve respect).

    So now, feminism. I see you’re “proudly old school feminist”, so I’m going to assume that you agree with the mantra of choice that’s so central to feminism. I wonder, then, why you have such a narrow view of fashion and style.

    You say: “I do wonder why we have casually allowed these repressive looks back into the lexicon of style.”

    If you are “feminist” as you say, and a fashion writer no less, then I find it a little weird that you are calling for the demise of any particular fashion article. It would be anti-feminist to cut off choice for women. People can wear what they want, “repressive” or not; the important thing is that they have the choice to wear something else if they so desire.

    It’s sort of like the housewife debacle. Running the household was previously a repressive role for women prior to the 1960s, but now women are free to be a housewife if they CHOOSE to. What’s important is that they are able to NOT be a housewife if they want a career instead.

    The same goes for burlesque, which you apparently aren’t really a fan of. Even though striptease may very well accommodate the male gaze, it’s important we don’t pander to patriarchy and opt out of things just because we’re afraid of being seen as objects. If a woman wants to take her clothes off, she can do what she wants. As long as a woman WANTS to put herself in such a position, and isn’t forced into it, there isn’t a problem. Striptease and burlesque are fine by me, as long as they’re consensual.

    You don’t have to like burlesque, or even watch it, if you find it distasteful (you have CHOICE), but perhaps come to terms with its existence, and realise it’s actually in harmony with feminism.

    That went on for awhile – sorry to get so off-topic. I feel like your column wasn’t ill-intended, so consider this feedback rather than a provocation. Just perhaps be a little more careful when you talk about trans* folk and other marginalised groups, and maybe check yourself for a little bit of slut-shaming too.


    • Hi Michelle, thank you for your very long and thoughtful comment. I really appreciate that you took the time to respond in such a measured way.

      I will blog in more detail as I want to put the record straight on this, but to answer some of your specific points

      I really regret using the ‘trannie hooker’ line, it was thoughtless and lazy. And I do appreciate the massive difference between a person who is transgender – and a man who chooses to dress up like a cartoon woman. It was stupid of me to mention them both in the same piece and give the impression I didn’t understand that difference… And as you say, sex workers get enough negativity and hassle without someone like me casually making a cheap joke…

      Regarding transgender issues, I have written before about Candy magazine, which I think is the most exciting fashion magazine in the world at the moment. It’s completely cross gender/trans gender/above gender/beyond gender, in the most amazing way. I find it inspiring and – like you – I so appreciate living in a world where such a magazine even exists and can be sold over the counter in boutiques (they sell it at branches of Acne, among other places).

      You put the case for burlesque very convincingly – choice is the key, you’ve nailed that distinction. I think it is the 1950s trappings of so much of the burlesque I’ve seen referred to, online – and actually seen, I have seen some – that put me off the whole concept. Although I love 1950s fashion style, as DVT wears so beautifully, the sexual politics of that time terrify me and I find any return to it scary.

      Talking to my friends, women do seem divided on the burlesque issue – as they are about pornography.

      Anyway, I hope that answers some of your points, thanks for reading my blog and I hope we can ‘talk’ again.



  25. I love how, instead of giving critique on just her fashion, you critique her entire lifestyle and insult her career choice, despite the fact that all of the images you posted were irrelevant to the burlesque she is known for. As an art student, rule #1 in critiquing: CRITIQUE THE ART, NOT THE PERSON. This blog post went far from actual fashion criticism to old-fashioned slut-shaming.

    Old-school feminists like you amuse me in the fact that you think that you support women’s rights, yet you reject any female who isn’t as modest as you. There is a difference between a girl who whores herself out for attention and insecurities and a girl who does it out of pride and as a career because it’s less of an action for others and more of an action for themselves.

    After all, isn’t it fair to let a woman decide what she does with her body? After all, this reflects old school mentality that rejected any ankles to be showing, or else they’d be called a whore. And by that mentality, still to this day leaves people afraid to report a rape out of being told by a police officer that she deserved it for wearing a tank top, and therefore it ‘wasn’t rape’. Anyone who knows any goddamn thing about sex crimes, or feminism for that matter, would know that rapists will attack those in modest clothing.

    Stripping can be empowering for most girls, because they feel confident and proud that for once, out of a society of media telling them otherwise, they can feel good about the way they look. Perhaps it disgusts you that she’s proud that her confidence is boosted by men, but she wasn’t going to get that confidence from anyone else. Sorry to say, but women like you are the reason why so many women hate the way they look. It’s difficult to get women to unite against discrimination if all they’re doing is being catty about what the other is wearing or what they look like.

    In fact, most men don’t even notice the flaws that a girl will so easily pick out. I enjoy fashion, but did you ever stop to think that maybe critiquing how a woman dresses AND the way they live their life, is sexist to begin with?

    My two cents.

    • Hi P in P
      I don’t critique her lifestyle – I praise it. I love how she looks, I admire her professionalism, never letting her image slip. I think she’s an amaazing performer and professional.

      I just don’t, personally, feel entirely comfortable with burlesque. If it makes women feel empowered, that’s great, but I can’t help how feel about it. My friends are evenly divided on both sides of the argument. It comes down to personal opinion.

      I’m not critiquing the way Ms DVT dresses – I’m praising it and saying what a great example she is that you don’t have to subscribe to the current norm for very high heels to equal glamour, to look fabulous.

      Thanks for sharing your opinions – that’s the great thing about blogs.



      • Yikes! I feel a bit stupid. I responded to this column with interest and love. Such nastiness.
        Anyone who reads Magggie on a regular basis and all of her books knows that she is not prejudiced, but caring and full of good insights into fashion and being a woman in today’s times. I am an oldie – and I applaud this column.
        Sure, there are many other sides, but did Maggie incite such hatred?
        Geez. Get a grip and read in context. I thought this sort of thing was an american thing. I see that I was wrong.
        GREAT column, Maggie.
        I applaud you. It is odd that some who do not seem to KNOW you are being so nasty.
        We who know you and read your books know otherwise.
        Much LOVE to you,

      • Thanks Toby, really nice to have some support. I really didn’t mean to offend.

        There have been some very interesting points made in the comments – it’s given me a lot to think about, which is the whole joy of this crazy blogging universe.


  26. tra**ie hookers

    look better in heels

    thanks for the objectification

  27. What gives you the right to bash other women and their choice of clothing ?
    What an absolute little snob you are.

    “In fact I’m proudly old school feminist about the whole ‘burlesque’ revival”

    No you are just cruel and rude.

    • Hi Matilda – I seem to have offeneded so many people… I understand those who are defending burlesque and feel passionate about that (and there’ve been some really good points made about it in these comments), but I don’t understand why it makes people thing I hate women.

      The whole point of the piece was to just to say: we associate DVT with a particular kind of glamour, but look – she also looks amazing in flat shoes.

      So I’m sorry you think I’m a snob, cruel and rude. But I just don’t like the Kim Kardashian/Katie Price style that so many young women have adopted. I think it’s a backwards step.

      And now I’m crawling off to pull the duvet over my head. x

      • I don’t think you hate women, perhaps voicing what many people think about certain looks and for want of a better word “tribes” and not really giving it thought that some people may be hurt by this.

        I also get what you were getting at with the DVT angle and if it makes you feel any better she does actually call her look “my drag” when she refers to her full make up and hair.
        Dita, in your opinion, may not be a bastion of womens rights, but I’ll tell you this much about her, she is one of the nicest women I know and she has given so many women confidence in themselves to be who they want to be.

        If you get a chance to see her show, most of the audience will be women. that’s how strong her empowerment message is. I am middle aged, I don’t see her a a sex object, nor to I suddenly want to be a stripper, but if I did so what? She’s an icon of our times.

        I’m part of the vintage tribe, so I can be a snob, cruel and rude, but I wouldn’t write anything so strong about how someone else choses to look. I am pretty sure you’ll
        get over my fit of pique!!

        You might enjoy the read.


      • I think DVT looks amazing and IS amazing. I also really admire women who really put a ‘look’ on every day and sustain a very specific level of grooming. I know I’m not up to it. I also think DVT is a great role model in the way she is in charge of her own life, her own finances, her own career. My personal confusion about burlesque and what it means for women, in terms of sexuality, is a separate thing. I wish I’d never mentioned it!

        And when I was talking about young women done up like drag queens, I didn’t mean her. If only more women did look like her. I meant – as one commenter said, it might have been you actually – the Kim Kardashian/Katie Price aesthetic.

        I’m interested in the concept of the ‘vintage tribe’ you mention. Do you mean people who dress from one particular era? I knwo some women who dress always in the style of 1950s men, with Brylcreemed hair etc (they’re women). One of them deals in 50s furniture, homewares etc, but her wife works in an office job and I love how they live in their chosen aesthetic. I guess they are part of the vintage tribe?

        I think, by mixing up several different issues, I accidentally made some foul foul brew which gave the impression that I’m a judgemental kind of person who doesn’t think anyone should be different or free to express themselves… nothing could be farther from the truth.

        Last night my daughter’s drag queen godfather was getting reading to pull himself up to his full 8 feet (in shoes and wig…) to fight for me!

        I’ll have a look at your blog. mx

    • IEgads! I am visully impaired so know there will be typos. Don’t’t blame me. I thought this sort of ugliness was an american political thing.
      Wront I was/
      Can’t you people be nice and kind?????
      Fashion is fun. Fashion is great..
      I find these attacks on Magggie so nasty that I have to keep replying. What gives with this?
      We love Magggie.
      Whatr is YOUR problem? Itt does seem true that little girls are now dressing like tramps. Is this what we oldies fought for?
      I think not.
      Get a grip.

  28. Thanks Maggie for the reply. I do generally love your column and I agree that it’s nice to see someone with a polished 40s/50s style like Dita rocking a flat shoe 🙂


  29. I feel like I’m witnessing the bully in the school yard. I think Maggie offended someone; and that someone went off and got all their friends to come back and throw things at her.
    Personally, I don’t care one way or the other for sex workers, burlesque or transvestites – it’s all about choice, getting your job done, whatever…..
    I do care about freedom of speech and being able to say it like it is. Those who don’t like it have the freedom to log off!
    Great replies, Maggie, chin up xx

    • GiGi, I don’t know any of the other posters here at all.

      Whilst I do have the right to log off, I also think when someone posts on the net, they
      expect a reaction to that post from their readers. That reaction does not always come as positive and can be quite a shock. Just as shocking for the person reading that post initially.

      Everything you have stated above in the points you make about the readers can also be applied to the blogger herself.

      I doesn’t mean that I won’t return and enjoy future posts or indeed look into reading the authors books.


      • Miss Matilda

        I disagree. When someone posts on the net they are NOT asking someone to comment, unless stated otherwise, they are indulging in an articulate, edited, stream of conciousness on a topic, using their vernacular, and hoping to find like minded people who share their view. The main focus of the article was the style one can achieve wearing flats not the career choice of the lady in the flats. Relax.

        However, the greater irony? you attribute a nickname, DVT, to a woman who pains me with her immaculate style in ALL photos ( oh to be so dedicated to me) – just lke DVT, the medical condition does on long haul flights. Wonderfully witty. More of it please.

  30. Some of the more strident commentators here need to read ‘Female Chauvinist Pigs’ by Ariel Levy. I support other womens’ rights to dress however they please and do whatever they please (so long as they’re not harming anyone). My issue is that, even though I dress very conservatively, wear no makeup, and don’t go to pubs or clubs, I still get harassed in public – including by a man who came up to me as a teenager dressed in a baggy black tshirt and loose black pants and yelled ‘nice t***s’ right in the middle of a busy street, which I found extremely upsetting and scary – how was I to know what else a person who would be so rude might do? I have to wonder where this kind of treatment comes from. I think that some people see women pushing the boundaries in dress and behaviour, make assumptions about what that means about motives, and then lump us all in together and treat us the same. Bold women: conservative women also pay the bill for your freedom, whether or not we get to enjoy that freedom to the fullest. So please understand how we feel when we see a trend emerge and think “oh no, another fashion that’s going to make some people think women want to be objectified” – because a lot of people out there seem to be unable to separate ‘this woman’ from their perception of ‘women’.

    • Best thing I’ve read so far on this topic.
      Thanks, Jasmine.

    • Jasmine, I’m sorry that you’ve had to experience such awful treatment, it’s really not nice. I’m a commuter cyclist, I wear my everyday usual clothing when I ride (no lycra) and I am harassed constantly. People yell incredibly offensive things out of their cars (‘Show us yer t***s’ and far worse), I constantly have men asking me ‘how much for a ride’, and I have been egged whilst riding. It’s not a nice experience, and I’m sharing this information so that you know that I really do understand that experience.

      However, the inferences that you are making are incredibly problematic and I don’t think you realise that you’re actually promoting misogyny. You’re inferring that women who don’t dress conservatively, who wear make-up, who do go to pubs and clubs, should expect (and possibly deserve!) to be harassed because of the way they’re dressed or where they’re going. NO ONE should be harassed, full stop. There is no distinction based on how someone is dressed or anything like that. It is exactly the same as saying ‘oh, she was wearing a miniskirt so she deserved to be raped’. ‘Oh, she was pushing the boundaries/wearing make-up/in a bar/dressed non-conservatively (what is that even?), therefore, she totally deserved/should have expected to be harassed’. NO! There is never any excuse for harassment. Ever. And the fact that you, in your conservative, non-make-up state, have been harassed shows that it actually *isn’t* to do with any of those things at all. It isn’t *your* fault you were harassed. It was the person who harassed you who is at fault, who should have to change, not the other way round.

      Do you see what I’m getting at? That it’s not *us* who should have to change. It’s not a case of ‘oh crap, I’m being harassed for riding my bike, so I should stop riding’. Or ‘Oh crap, I’m being harassed because I’m a woman, so I should stop being a woman’. That last one, that’s really the crux of this whole problem, and why ‘bold women’ are being bold and speaking out against this kind of thing. We’ve got to fight against this antiquated thinking that it’s our fault, that we somehow invited harassment because we chose to be different or go out and have a good time, or dress up. You wonder where this kind of treatment comes from? It comes from people who continue to reinforce the idea that we bring it on ourselves by the way we dress, act, etc. Unfortunately, that is exactly what you are doing in your comment. I’m not having a go at you, I’m just trying to point out how that kind of thinking is actually working against all women, because NO woman deserves to be harassed or objectified, and it doesn’t matter what they wear, what kind of job they do, where they go. It isn’t US who has to change. It’s the people who are harassing/objectifying us, they have to change their thinking and realise that their actions are NOT at all acceptable.

      • Thanks Abigael. For the record, harassment and rape are crimes – there is no such thing as justification for either, ever, under any circumstances. Everyone should be able to dress however they want, do whatever they want, and be safe everywhere. Everyone in society – men and women equally – should have equal freedom.
        My point, however, is quite separate from that, and is that our collective image as women is precious, we each contribute to it, and it affects how all of us are treated. It bothers me how some represent us, because it can and does rebound on the others.
        They’re probably equally horrified by how ‘conservative’ I am, but we’re all equally entitled to our opinions. I’m simply expressing mine.
        Anyhow, read the book if you’re interested – it’s way smarter than me and I’m sure it’s harder to misinterpret.

      • Hey Abigail – butting in to your conversation with Jasmine. But have to say I’m appalled to hear that kind of TIT stalking still goes on… I really thought one thing feminism had achieved was to make that kind of behaviour unacceptable. That is depressing. Mx

  31. Great to be reading your posts again Maggie. Am a long term fan of yours and enjoys the way you translate fashion into the everyday me. Look forward to reading more x

  32. Talk about a storm in a D-cup. We follower of Maggie’s blogs, books and columns enjoy her witty, wry and insightful take on style. Style, whatever your inclination, is a individual thing and Maggie’s blog surely was not intended to be offensive. it certainly doesn’t deserve the nasty backlash of some of the comments. The point is that is not ok to demean human being and if/when fashion does that fashion is not ok.

    I share Maggie’s vintage and feminist tradition. Somewhat reluctantly, I went to the Crazy Horse in Paris a few weeks ago – DT is a supporter and sometime performer there. It was an enjoyable show – fun, arty, not degrading – and, surprisingly (to me, anyway) women were in the majority in the audience. Maybe we’ve all moved on?

  33. Whenever I see blog posts like this that appear to have caused a bit of a stir, I’m always cautious about the people who write allegedly heart felt rants criticising the blogger – especially when they express their surprise that the blogger is posting on this subject or enquiring as to what right the blogger has to express an opinion. Have they actually not read this blog before? And do they not realise that the point of a blog is to have somewhere to express your opinions on any topic, including for example what other people are wearing. You have all the right in the world to comment on what other people are wearing.

    For the record I am a long time reader of this blog, Maggie’s former column and books – and I consider myself a feminist. I read the column and didn’t have an issue with it or how it was written. Seems like a bit of an overreaction by some to me… Some of those who are jumping up and down seem to forget we are all entitled to our own opinion but the unnecessary vitriol and nastiness doesn’t do anything to add to yours.

  34. Jasmine, you need to look up a little thing called “rape culture”. We live in one. Knowing about rape culture is Feminism 101. Your attitudes are incredibly problematic – do not blame other “slutty” women for the harrassment you face. The fact that you dress conservatively and yet still get harrassed should tell you something – THAT SEXUAL HARRASSMENT OF WOMEN IS NORMALISED AND CONSIDERED ACCEPTABLE IN OUR CULTURE. So it doesn’t matter WHAT you wear, when or where – it has still been ingrained that it is acceptable to intimidate women, that it’s just “the way boys are”. Rape culture also means that no matter what a woman is wearing, when or where, she will likely still be held responsible for her own rape and interrogated about whether she sent out “signals”. You are perpetuating rape culture – YOU are engaging in VICTIM-BLAMING, another sacred tenant of rape culture. Learn what it is, please. Because until more and more people understand how rape culture is constructed and maintained, this kind of shit will continue to happen – and women will continue to get blamed.

    Toby – grow up. Maggie spoke words of hate, prejudice and violence. She got a response from the marginalised groups she targeted – many trans women and sex workers commented here – that was in keeping with the spitefulness of her column. No one threatened her, most people were actually very nice. But they were assertive and vehement in their response – certainly no more so than Maggie was in her column or any of her supporters were with their comments. You’re being a little biased, I think.

    It is absolutely RIDICULOUS that Maggie can write such a mean-spirited column and when she RIGHTFULLY gets a dressing down instead of an arse-licking, you all go “don’t be so meeeeeeeeean!”
    WHY oh why is it that you sort of people only ever see the problem with the CONSEQUENCE rather than the intial ACTION. Maggie ACTED. Her action was writing a nasty column that engaged in a lot of judgementalism and prejudice. Those she judged unkindly REacted. That is the CONSEQUENCE.
    I am not sure Maggie is even accepting responsibility as much as she claims given the nature of her replies to those commenting again to support her. I would be far more impressed if Maggie told her supporters she was right to be scolded rather than thanking them and continuing to protest she meant no offence (THAT tired old argument, Maggie? Very few people mean to offend. But when you spout prejudice, you inevitably do – the best thing to do is just apologise with no excuses and also accept that intention means little when the damage is done), and I would be even more impressed if she actually addressed some of the misogynistic, whorephobic and classist and transphobic things some of her supporters are saying, especially as she claims to have such staunch progressive beliefs otherwise on those issues.

    It is SO VERY EASY for those not affected by particular matters to dismiss them as a “fuss over nothing” or a “storm in a d-cup”. If you are not faced, day in and day out, with transphobic or whorephobic treatment – where everything about you is interrogated, judged, sneered at and discriminated against – it is hard to understand how hurtful things like this can be. But guess what? You lot snidely dismissing our feelings doesn’t make our realities any less real. Nothing exists in a vacuum. Again, this is a very basic principle of feminist theory. Why is it not okay to make rape jokes? Because people actually do get raped. Because joking about it contributes to its trivialisation and normalises it as just something that happens. For the same reason, it is not okay to make degraded hooker jokes or pathetic trannie jokes. Many of us are activists in our movement and we are fighting little battles like this all the time, alongside the bigger ones. They are all connected and all contribute to hate and prejudice. You cannot see that because it doesn’t affect you. But that doesn’t make it any less a fact.

    Your words make people think you hate women because your words are hateful, Maggie. They deny agency and they’re demeaning in nature. This column was snobbish and it was cruel and rude. That you cannot see this is very, very sad.

    • Allow me to clarify not everyone posting in protest to this column is a trans woman or a sex worker – I don’t even know everyone who did.

  35. Some items of fashion have specific cultural significance. This has often been built up and reinforced over time, and most people will make the association, right or wrong. For example, if I wear an earring in one ear or the other, to some people I am declaring my sexual orientation – whether that is what I meant or not.
    When these items are worn outside their ‘home’ environment and context, it can be confusing, especially for people who already have troubling grasping subtleties, social norms and expected behaviours.
    I am not indulging in victim blaming. My personal belief is that a rape victim is never at fault, ever, regardless of circumstances. There is never an excuse for a perpetrator. Ever. None.
    What I’m saying is that denying that some items of fashion come with baggage isn’t helping. I think we need to be careful, when an item of fashion is commonly linked to sexuality and sensuality, how that item is incorporated into the mainstream/popular culture, outside of its best-known context. The big shoes are something I would put into this category. I see them as a symbol of the oversexualisation of…well…everyone. I don’t think I’m alone.
    I know what rape culture is. I work in a male-dominated industry, often in remote areas. I see the signs of, and deal with the fear of, the culture you’re describing every day. I’ve arrived at my opinions through personal experience as well as reading, talking to people, and thinking things over, over a lot of years. Rubbishing my opinions isn’t going to make the difference between our ideals and laws, and what happens out there in the world, go away.

    • Your personal beliefs do not reflect those of society at large and disavowing complicity in rape culture when you tell bold women that what they wear affects conservative women and they should really think about that is disingenuous at best and deliberately calculated at worst. Please maintain some consistency in your arguments.

      With regards to clothing coming with baggage – I don’t think you’re really understanding the objections. The objections are to the accompanying negativity that’s assumed – the derisiveness, the peering-down-the-nose, the claims of degradation, worthlessness and such. Me calling my stripper shoes my stripper shoes comes with a very different inference to someone like you calling them stripper shoes – I call them that lovingly, in fond awareness of their cultural significance. You do so with a sneer and hateful spirit. Big, big difference. Language has meaning, weight and implication that is just as culturally significant as a symbolic item. You arguing otherwise is not helpful.

      Also, pole-dancing IS an artform. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched or participated in it, but it requires an immense amount of skill and athleticism. Your added little snub that guys are laughing at girls that do it seems to be nothing more than competitive malice – what exactly are you threatened by? And FYI – I’ve done poledancing, and all your snobby little checklist of ‘real’ athletic arts – aerial, ballet and gymnastics. Poledancing is equal to any of them in the level of difficulty it requires to do with true mastery.

      • Sorry Starlet, I’ve run out of time. I know this is a really important discussion but I have work and study I have to get back to – I’ve already neglected it a bit more than was probably wise in order to participate – because it is such a big deal – but I really have to tear myself away.
        I HAVE been thinking on what you, and others, have said during this discussion, and will continue to do so.
        I just can’t seem to express myself accurately and people are getting me wrong, so it’s better to leave this discussion in better hands than mine anyway. But I’d like to think that any cynical prediction I make about my absence, knives and my back will be proven wrong.

  36. I’m with you, Toby; get a grip, it was just an article about how to look good in flat shoes. Free Speech anyone? Maggie, write what you want and don’t apologise (or crawl under the duvet) unless you really think it’s necessary. Please don’t let this experience put you off telling us what you really think in the future. Most of us are here because we enjoy your writing, your opinions, and your style. It would be a shame if you had to stifle your writing to avoid backlash from a (very) vocal minority.

  37. I wish to wear flats, or try some Lauren Hutton look, but my body would look grotesque in it. I have big boobs and not so skinny legs, so why the hell i should torture myself with feeling that i don’t look good? It has nothing to do with feminism or burlesque. Why I should wear boyish 70s clothes, in which I’m sure every skinny girl would look great. I want to look good too! So I will wear tight waist dresses and high heels. I think every woman should wear what she feels good in, and what makes her confident. That is feminism!
    My heroes were women of the 1940s when when you could look sexy and be independent and powerful…

  38. I don’t think there was any intentional malice in this article, all my posts around my dis satisfaction were posted and there have been many apologies.

    However I would request that the stereotype “trannie Hooker” be removed or changed.

    Tra**y is a derogative term.

    Its like saying ni**er.

    please remove it

    • Trainee hooker works for me. I see it all over the place in good ole U.S.A. I find it a bit off-putting to see girls barely young women dressed in such a manner. Can’t we all lighten up? It’s a fun term, yes?
      How about, trainee bitch?
      I certainly do not advocate a return to high collars and buttoned up sleeves, but I would like to see a style of cress that is reflective of the age of young girls.
      Must we have to see hardened nipples under spandex on the sidewalks?
      I think not.
      If we are talking equality, why don’t men dress in the same manner. eh? How many young men do you see exposing all their body parts?
      In this country, a ridiculous baseball cap is about the max of a fashion statement and this is not a fashion statement, is it?
      Go, go Maggie! I hope you can retreat to your book world. I am dying for a new one. I’ve listened to all of your books more than twice. You are great!

    • I’m so glad you’ve said this – I was thinking to take it out and then I thought I might be accused of trying to ‘change the evidence’… I’ve had some pretty abusive comments on Twitter which have made me nervous to do anything. So thank you for confirming my instincts. I honestly didn’t know the T word was derogatory.

      Thank you so much for explaining that to me xxx

  39. Might I suggest Starlet that you start your own blog? Your comments are heartfelt and interesting but they are the length of posts in themselves.

  40. Hmmm, I’m still with you, Maggie, on the old-fashioned feminism.
    I’ve often heard sex workers say that they are liberated, they feel empowered by using their bodies to earn money, they make an independent choice about what they do, and that by questioning that choice, other women are being demeaning and conservative.
    If they feel their lives are good, all power to them. I think that’s great.
    But. I have two reservations.
    First: the sex industry is largely unregulated, and it is also an industry in which there is a lot of money to be made. In situations like this, there is always scope for exploitation. I don’t think there is anything wrong in being concerned, as a woman, for the safety and wellbeing of other women workers, whether they are nurses, pole-dancers, lawyers or dinner ladies.
    Second: what purpose, exactly, does striptease (and burlesque) serve if not to show women as objects? Is there a bit I’ve missed where you talk about what a wonderful personality you have, or how you’re studying psychology at evening classes? Doesn’t the sex industry cater, on the whole, for male tastes?
    Personally, I think Dita von Teese is a very stylish woman. But come on, let’s not kid ourselves – if our society was not dominated by what men view as sexy, we would probably never have heard of her.

  41. Starlet, you claim Maggie spoke words of violence in her original post, may I ask where? She certainly speaks of her amibivalence/confusion about burlesque and this has been addressed again and again in subsequent postinghs. I do feel that you have taken, what was a few misjudged comments and embelished them with your own to be abale to push your own agenda. Blogs are for expressing yourself and your opinion, and it is just that, your own opinion, be it well thought through or not I think Syliva is right, maybe you need you own blog and to not hijack someone else’s to make you own point.

  42. I can see why the original comment may have caused some offence, but honestly don’t think it was meant that way, and think that those who have been reading Maggie’s column on an ongoing basis would give her the benefit of the doubt on this one. I can see why people have raised the issues they have, but Maggie has responded respectfully and thoughtfully to comments that have tended at times towards the extreme, paranoid, and highly uncharitable. She’s rightly removed the offending words, and I think conceded that there were negative implications arising from her words. I agree that feminism is about ‘choices’, but I also think it’s about the ability to have a civil discussion about the context, nature and implications of those choices and the connection they have to issues that affect women. I’m not sure you can aggressively assert that burlesque etc is 100% great for women/a feminist act, and not be willing to engage in a discussion about it; I may happen to agree with you on many of these points, but I think there is a case to be argued on both sides, and I find it incredibly depressing when people try to shut down the issue by yelling at someone /accusing them of sins against feminism for having a different view. Reasonable feminists can and should have reasonable disagreements and conversations about these issues without resorting to name-calling or moral-high-ground-claiming in a defensive manner. Maggie, I’ve been reading your columns since I was a schoolgirl, and really appreciate the way you’re able to write about fashion and culture in a way that is women-positive, body-positive, thoughtful & kind.

    • Thank you SO much.

      Your comment ‘women-positive, body-positive… and kind’ means so much to me, as that is exactly what I’ve always tried to be.

      Fashion can be such a foully misoygnist industry and so many women involved just get bowled along by it and never question the broader implications for the real woman at home. All of us.

      And yes, the yelling – lets leave that to the men, shall we? xxxxx

  43. Hmm, this has become quite the storm!

    I once read that this ‘revival’ is simply the ‘same old sexual cliches repackaged as a new form of female empowerment.’ Couldn’t agree more.

    You may not agree with maggies comments, and choose to take huge offense, but I think if you’ve read these columns for some time you realise Maggie is a sane head in the rather ridiculous world of fashion. By judging and jumping to conclusions, you’re putting yourself in the same boat you claim to flee.

  44. I think it’s a little simplistic to conflate retro fashion with retro politics. But burlesque does play with this dynamic, and it often refuses to give a simple answer to any politic. The act of performing burlesque, or dressing vintage, in a world after feminism could alternatively be read as a juxtaposition that creates a new path, one in which women and men are free to dress as they please, to create themselves in homage to some of the great art and fashion of pre-feminist times. Even as an homage to the women who had to live in them.

    • Hi Lola, I don’t know how I managed to give the impression that I’ve got anything against retro fashion, but it seems I did. Let me put that straight: I love vintage clothes and wear a lot of them myself. My misgivings about burlesque are an entirely different issue.

      But it has been interesting from reading the comments I’ve had on that, to realise that this does seem to a bit of an issue under current debate. Just the other day a friend sent me a link to a website specialising in retro style girdles and undies, which you need to wear to make the 1950s style of dress look right – not the glamorous style of corset, but the granny style of girdle. I find it all very interesting.

      best Maggie

  45. Dear Maggie,

    I loved your post and I’m actually glad that some other women think flat shoes can be just as sexy and attractive as heels can. It puts my mind at ease knowing that I’m not the only one that thinks this. I’m not really a fan of heels but I know I like to look cute. :3

    I’ve come across some rather interesting and disturbing information about the slew of nasty comments you’ve been receiving lately. It turns out that most of the commenters came from a tumblr page named harleyquinnaid and that the harassment was seemingly organized by someone named clownyprincess. Abigael Casey=Abimused, Min=MYS, Simone Honeycutt=SA, Kelly=KellyMyDear, and Starlet seemed to all originated from there. And according to clownyprincess, she’s actually encouraging people to further attack you.

    I would be very cautious of who comments on this article from this day forward however I loved the way you handled them. Best of safety and hopefully more articles.

    Best of strength and wishes,


  46. Interesting…

    As a carrier of the foot-in-mouth gene, I can sympathise with causing a storm and being taken the wrong way – also with sometimes saying something silly and unintentionally ignorant and causing a backlash.

    In my humble opinion, women can be whatever they want to be. I may not like it, I may mock them behind their backs and lament the loss of what I perceive to be class, but I will never tell them that they cannot do what they wish.

    I disagree with the notion that women have to watch how they behave as it reflects badly on all of us…if I bare my breasts for burlesque onstage I will not take responsibility for the poor woman raped in the alleyway behind the theatre after the show. My heart would bleed for her, I’d be highly tempted to hunt down the bastard who thought he could touch her and remove his genitals with my teeth, but at no point would I sit suicidally in the corner moaning ‘why oh why…if only I’d kept my clothes ON!’

    The most important and most wonderful thing that we as women can do for each other is show love, support and understanding in our life choices. We should seek to educate continually each other, the masses and our male counterparts on why we do the things we do and what is and is not an acceptable reaction to our behaviors.

    I don’t believe Maggie menat any offense, though I do believe some of the things she wrote were inappropriate, naive and ill-informed. Thankfully she has recognised this and apologised where appropriate…that, in my opinion, is the mark of a TRUE woman. We all make mistakes…and we never stop learning.

    For me personally, burlesque is and has always been a way to express myself, celebrate my sexuality and encourage others to express theirs. If men or women want to see me as an object, I cannot help that…I think ultimately it is a small matter to me, and indicative of much bigger issues within themselves. But even so, there are boundaries, always…

    As I say to the men in my audience ‘there are no real rules in life boys…you can touch me if you want to. But if there are no rules, then understand that also means I can break your f***ing fingers if I don’t like it.”

    They get the point…and everyone behaves.

    Maggie, I may not like what you say, but I shall defend your right to say it…as I will defend everyone else’s right to respond. Thank you for your honesty, and thank you even more for having the decency and open-mindedness to rethink your views and consider that in this matter there may be much more to it than you first believed.


    • Hi
      Thanks so much for taking the time to post such a thoughtful, intelligent comment. I am so enjoying hearing all the different sides of this debate.

      I’m all for people expressing themselves, I think it is for the greater good – and I was really impressed to hear about the burlesque classes for women who’ve had mastectomies, I can see how empowering that would be in the right environment.

      My opinion about the bigger picture remains unchanged, but I love hearing all the different spectrum of views on it. As you so rightly say debate, discussion, conversation is the way to move things forward, not wars of words…

      And I love the way you deal with your audience.


  47. Hi Maggie, good blog. I’m a mum so spend a lot of time in flats- it’s a practicality rather than a style choice. I’m unsure of the ‘stripper shoe’ invasion of our show stores, but read it as a contemporary strip influence rather than burlesque so it makes me inwardly chuckle rather than arc up. It’s the same humour I apply to housewives doing strip pole for fitness in the comfort of their own loungerooms- the takeover is doing well.
    I started burlesque 22 years ago and was really flying in the face of old school feminism. This was an era where offsetting one’s hairy armpits and boiler suit with delicately applied lipstick bought some fresh air to the stale debate about how women want to represent themselves as opposed to how we are being told to represent ourselves- by anyone. So the a conversation feels like an old friend now and the bottom line still remains the same- women should be able to choose how we want to look, rather than have it dictated by advertising, or by the fashion industry by people claiming to be feminists.
    The original revivalists set out to parody the 50’s domestic goddess meets over-groomed sex siren… I wonder if that has disappeared from burlesque. Perhaps the awareness that we are creating a parody seems has become more subliminal then it used to be.
    None the less, on one agenda burlesque wins out over feminism every time. In a world where we are still bombarded with body fascist hammerings- from the generic plastic porn star, to a fashion industry where most of our designers are male and the ideal woman is hungry, unhappy and weak, to advertising for teenagers undies that must have the paedophiles of the world really happy; I think even old school feminists would have acknowledge that it’s a positive thing that women of all shapes and sizes can perform burlesque without being slammed by their audience.
    regardless of the fact burlesque has become slightly generic, I still think the revival is giving women a place to choose their sexual representation. Burlesque may have inspired fashion all around the world- it’s not fashion driven itself. It’s a live performance art form that is predominantly created by women, and our audience are still predominantly women.

    • Dear Imogen, thanks SO much for your comment, which i sucked up like a long drink of water on a hot day.

      Fascinating to hear the perspective of someone who’s been there from the start of the revival. 22 years – wow. Your point about parody is key, I think – I totally get that. Also how important it was when feminists – and I was one of them – started to say, actually I feel better if my legs are hairless and I wear lipstick. I also think you nail it when you say the element of parody is lost in some quarters – not all, but some.

      I have to say that i also hadn’t realised, until reading so many great comments from women involved with burlesque, that audiences are mainly women. It was my mistake to assume that the audience was as old school as the outfits – ie the patriarchy who people the lap dancing and pole dancing audiences.

      I’ve been to those places and found all the old power structures still in place – but I haven’t been to enough burlesque to know. What I’ve seen was probably 50\:50 men and women.

      Once again thanks so much for taking the time to treat me to your experience of this debate.

      best Maggie x

  48. Dear Maggie. I regularly read and enjoy your articles in the Sunday Age. I am a 30-something feminist who grew up feeling a bit uncomfortable with dressing in a feminine way. I’ve really enjoyed your articles for a long time, and I’m sure reading them has contributed to my own growing ease with dressing in a more feminine, stylish manner. I’m gradually finding my own style, and learning to enjoy fashion (which for a very long time I absolutely hated). So, your writing really helped me.

    Reading your article in today’s Age reminded me to check out your blog, where I was surprised to discover that you have experienced such a backlash after writing an article with no ill intentions. I’ve learned a lot from reading the articulate and well thought out responses, and I can understand why some people have been very upset, and I applaud the revisions you have made to the article.

    I think that you deserve congratultions on the way you have handled this matter. I think you’ve responded in a very respectful, open and thoughtful way. You’ve really taken the time to listen to others and to learn from this. Personally, I already greatly enjoyed your writing and your sense of style, but now I have even more respect for you as a person with great integrity, compassion and the desire to learn from and understand others.

    Coping so much flack must have been very hard, which is why I wanted to take the time to say that it looks like you handled it really well, and I really enjoy your writing, and have learned a heap from your writing. Thanks.

  49. Well done maggie for apologising for causing offence. It’s a good thing in itself to review your original opinion and have the grace to say you were wrong. So everyone, let’s move on now.

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