As she dressed for her 26th birthday recently, Cleo Pac Monrose focused on making a statement. Monrose, a podcast marketer for Spotify, flicked the dust off the high-heeled lavender pumps she had been hoarding since just before lockdown.
Slipping the shoes on, she felt unsteady at first.
"It was like a whole new role for my feet. We haven't been here in a while," she said. She soon regained her bearings.
"It's kind of like riding a bike," she said. "You get right back up."
Wait. Wasn't it only a moment ago that women were cheering the demise of stilettos and skyscraper heels, ditching their party shoes for the comfort of sneakers and clogs? High-heeled shoes were at the point of flatlining, industry pundits fretted, teetering on the edge of extinction.
Fast-forward a few months to find those same women making a sharp sutorial pivot: trading comfort and function for the joy of dressing up. Consumers are itching, after more than a year of confinement, to step up their style game in towering heels.
"People are so tired of these comfy, sloppy outfits," said Daniel Harris, 18, a freelance fashion consultant in Kingsport, Tenn. "We've gone through a year and some change of everybody being holed up in the house. Now we're popping on those heels again and going out."
Professional trend watchers agree. Sidney Morgan-Petro, head of retail and buying for WGSN, a trend forecasting service in New York, said it might be too soon to call this a boom. "But high-heeled shoes are having a moment right now."
Google searches of "high heels," one reliable indicator of consumer interest, have climbed in recent weeks. The fashion glossies, whose business it is to drive sales, seem especially keen to give heels a boost.
Time for a change
Ileana Zambrano hardly needed such a push. Prepping for dinner recently at Morandi, a popular New York City trattoria, Zambrano, who gave her age as "my business," broke out her Jimmy Choo sandals.
"I couldn't wait to dress up and wear them again," she said. "I don't care if I can't walk."
Kelly Holmes, 47, Zambrano's friend, showed off a recent purchase, a pair of ultra-tall, pointy-toed goldtone sandals. She had been wearing high heels since restaurants reopened for indoor dining.
"Now, when I walk down the street," she said, "I feel like a gazelle that's just been born."
Frivolity is another driver of sales, keeping Will Cooper, a senior vice president and general merchandise manager of shoes, bags and accessories at Saks Fifth Avenue, bullish on heels.
"Over the last months the business has really accelerated," Cooper said. Coveted brands include tall sandals from labels including Christian Louboutin, Aquazzura, Amina Muaddi and Bottega Veneta.
A fashion die-hard, Monrose resorted while working from home to strolling her bedroom in her lavender pumps.
"I had been wanting to wear them for so long," she said. "When I put them on, I felt like a little kid again, playing in my Disney princess costume drawer."