cover image Women from the Ankle Down: 
The Story of Shoes and 
How They Define Us

Women from the Ankle Down: The Story of Shoes and How They Define Us

Rachelle Bergstein. Harper, $24.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-196961-4

The evolution of women’s shoes since WWII becomes the story of women’s self-empowerment in this engaging, toe-to-heel study by editorial consultant Bergstein. Aside from some fluffy conclusions about shoes offering women the requisite “incomparable opportunity for self-expression,” Bergstein takes some iconic styles over the decades, such as Salvatore Ferragamo’s cork-soled wartime wedgie, and provides minibios and fascinating informational tidbits: e.g., Ferragamo’s 1938 sandal ingeniously employed material readily available on the eve of war, such as foil and cork, combined with a style dating back to ancient Greece, to create a shoe that was wonderfully comfortable and modern-feeling for new women on the go. Shoes can help women achieve their dreams, or so Dorothy Gale via Judy Garland learned in The Wizard of Oz by clicking thrice her bowed ruby slippers (changed from silver in the book), while Wonder Woman, first appearing in her own comic book in 1942, wore high-heeled red boots designed to be assertive yet still feminine. Or shoes seduce, like Barbara Stanwyck’s pom-pom satin pumps in Double Indemnity. From flats à la Audrey Hepburn, Keds and white go-go boots, Tommy-era platforms, and Jane Fonda’s Rebok Freestyles, to Sex and the City’s pricey Manolo Blahniks and Jimmy Choo’s, Bergstein ably runs the gamut of styles over the decades, high and low, and women’s eager embrace of “personal agency.” (June)