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BY DESIGN : CLOSET Rx : Well-Heeled at All Times


They're the shoes women love to hate, yet most have at least one pair in their closets. The high heel, which was born from the desire to accentuate a woman's calf, rises and falls with the other trends in fashion. But sometimes when a woman looks at an outfit, she has to ask, "Do I wear heels with that?"

Unlike other forms of apparel, high heels can't slip through both the casual and dressy modes.

"To wear them with a casual outfit is somewhat tacky," says Stephanie Grani of Stephania in San Juan Capistrano. "I'd never wear them with a shorts outfit; you run the risk of looking tawdry."

There are some gray areas where a high heel looks appropriate. A cat-suit outfit may be looked at as somewhat casual, yet it can be dressed up with the addition of heels.

"They're generally a great way to make the outfit dressy and sexy," says Susan Shaw of Dancegear in Newport Beach.

Traditionally, the height of your heels has determined tackiness, with the higher the spike, the greater the gauche.

"Heels that are too long look comical," says clothing buyer Sara D'Allessandro of Yorba Linda. "If you don't feel right wearing them, or you don't think they go with an outfit, go with another shoe. If you don't feel good about what you're wearing one day, you'll regret getting out of bed."

Although today's average heel height is 1 1/2 inches, brace yourself for some higher spikes.

"While the platform seems to be fading, the long spiked heel is gaining in popularity," Shaw says. "But don't throw out your normal-sized heels yet; they'll come back soon."

Says Grani: "The 1 1/2-inch heel is an all-purpose shoe. It's great for a career look; it goes well with pantsuits, skirt suits. You should have at least one pair, even if you never wear heels."

For those who can't take the pounding of the traditional high heel, there is the new "squashed" look. "It looks like a high heel that has been pushed down at the top and the bottom," Grani says. "They give a better base of support when you're on your feet all day."

Once, tall women were advised not to wear heels that were too high, lest they appear taller than the men around them.

"That's a dead issue now," Shaw says. "It doesn't matter how tall you are. If you look great in heels, wear them. I have lots of girlfriends taller than their husbands, and they wear the highest heels they can find. It makes them statuesque and more beautiful."

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