The high heel, symbol of tranquil days before women’s lib, is again stalking the land, and right in step is 32-year-old designer Todd Vittorio Ricci. His spikes are some of the sharpest around. “Women want to be feminine,” he says. “They want to show their stuff. They are tired of the baggy-pants look.”
Star types like Barbra Streisand, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Carly Simon stand tall on Ricci heels. So do glamorous models for Bill Blass, Bill Kaiserman, Julio and Ralph Lauren at their Manhattan showings. “No question,” says Ricci, whose shoes for men as well as women are sold in his N.Y. and Chicago stores and more than 40 other shops across the country, “high heels make the leg look more beautiful. Flats are fine during the day, but night is made for woman. She puts on heels, her back straightens, her head lifts. It is like a transformation.”
This spring Ricci, a onetime singer (and father of two young sons), estimates that 65 percent of the shoes in his collection will be perched on 2½” to 4½” spikes. What separates the ’70s high-heeled shoe from the ’50s model is a roomier toe. “Sure, it’s still uncomfortable,” Ricci admits, “but without giving up their newfound feminism, I think young women are ready to sacrifice a little comfort.”
Glamor next year will be top to bottom. At the other end of elegant high-heeled women will be, of all things, hats. (Can garter belts be far behind?) A generation of females who grew up bareheaded in jeans and sneakers are succumbing to the heady charms of sailor toques, veiled pillboxes, pancake berets and jeweled cocktail numbers.
“Our lives are monotonous,” declares milliner Marsha Akins, 33. “A hat can lend a little oomph, that extra spark.” Marsha, who won a Coty Award for men’s hats in 1977, expects her four-year-old company, called Makins, to make a million in 1979. Roughly 50 percent of that comes from chapeaux for the ladies.
In 1974 she left a secretarial job to sew hats in her Manhattan kitchen, blocking them with an industrial steamer and baking them in the oven. Her operation is somewhat more sophisticated now. She is shipping her largest spring line yet—48 models—in shades of white, red, black, pink and turquoise to nearly 300 stores. “I got carried away,” she laughs.
Akins prides herself on being the best possible promotion for her own talent. Recently she’s worn an Army cap with veiling and a doll-size braided sombrero. “People stare,” she admits, “but then, I always considered myself weird anyway.”