Saturday, October 20, 2012

If the shoe fits

andrej pejic models chris benz SS12 via sight management studio
We all talk – a great deal – about the sizes of the bodies of fashion models. The sizes of their feet, however, rarely come up for discussion. What an interesting topic of conversation it proved to be when we puffed this week's Anmari Botha post on both frockwriter’s and my personal Facebook pages, using one of Botha’s IMG Models showcards as an illustration – and her published shoe size, "7.5", sparked a raft of comments. “How does a 5’11” woman have such small feet?!” asked Sydney-based media trainer Shauna Stafford. Another noted, “Most women that size would have size nine or ten feet”. While a former magazine maven chimed in, “Your basic nightmare. Perfect” – referring, we assume, to the dearth of “unusual” shoe sizes in the fashion cupboard of a typical magazine.

IMG models via
On closer inspection, the IMG Models showcard we featured was Botha’s card for London Fashion Week (above; agencies produce a new showcard for each of the markets) and the shoe size quoted was a UK size. That equates to a US size 9 – which corresponds with Botha's US shoe size quoted on the website of Botha’s New Zealand mother agency Red Eleven and on her IMG Models' New York and Paris Fashion Weeks showcards. 

Pending your online shoe shopping experiences and to whichever international shoe size conversion theory you subscribe, women’s US shoe sizes are either identical to or a half size larger than Australian sizes.

But it does beg the question, are there tall women with small feet?

It seems so. Dutch supermodel Lara Stone, who recently moved from the world number one spot on’s Top 50 Women list to the site’s “Industry Icons” section, is 5’10” and takes a US size 7 and reports that she has frequently been obliged to wear one size bigger on the runway. But some brands are happy to custom-fit shoes. Case in point Givenchy. “They made me my own special shoes” Stone told The New York Times in March 2007. “I’m so happy”.

Miranda Kerr, at 5’9”, also takes a size 7 US according to IMG Models.

Monika ‘Jac’ Jagaciak – who many may recall was dis-invited from appearing as the face of Australian Fashion Week in 2008 because of her age at the time (14) - is 5’10” and takes a 7.5 US shoe size.

A quick check on various agency websites suggests that the most common published shoe size for 5’10”-5’11” tall models is US 8 or 9. 

But there is some anecdotal evidence that model shoe sizes are increasing – just as the shoe size in the general population is said to be increasing. And it’s not something that women in particular tend to like to advertise, according to a 2011 survey by UK department store Debenhams, which reported 82percent of respondents who take a UK 8/9 (US 10.5-11.5) saying they are “ashamed” of the size of their feet; with 47% admitting to lying to friends and partners about their shoe size.

In a 2002 interview with, Elite Model Management agent Roman Young reported that the average US shoe size for models had “climbed” to 9 or 10. Young added that models who take a size 11 or 12 may find themselves the targets of size discrimination when it comes to runway shows, recalling a recent Gucci show for which he claimed models had been cast, Cinderella-like, based on whether or not they could fit into a certain shoe.

Noted Young, “You had the most beautiful girls in the world trying to cram their feet into this handmade boot that was like a size 8”.

Has much changed in a decade?

When Calvin Klein Collection Womenswear creative director Francisco Costa was in Australia in March 2010, we learned that special shoes had to be made to fit new Australian face Julia Nobis for her Calvin Klein exclusive New York Fashion Week in February that year, her international runway debut. 

How big? US size 11 according to Nobis’ Australian mother agency, Priscillas Management (and Ford Models now) – with other sources at the time suggesting her real size may be in fact a US 12 and speculating that this may have proved problematic for Nobis for other show castings that season.

julia nobis at calvin klein FW1011/getty via daylife; (bottom) the two pairs of shoes customised for nobis by calvin klein for the show (screen grab frockwriter at today tonight) 

Modelling womenswear has been a major talking point in the career of Andrej Pejic but as a man, it also has its disadvantages. Pejic takes a women’s US size 11 shoe but frequently finds himself having to squeeze into a size 10 for runway work according to The Washington Post.

But as it emerges, there are larger shoe sizes than Pejic's up on the womenswear runway. Coincidentally, they belong to other Australians. Not that anyone is talking about it. 

Reportedly, six foot tall Elle Macpherson takes a US size 12 - and is "self-conscious" about the fact.

abbey lee kershaw backstage at david jones SS1011/frockwriter

Then there is 5’11” Abbey Lee Kershaw, who is officially listed on the websites of both her Australian mother agency Chic Management and US agency Next Models as a US size 10.

We now know for sure that that size is incorrect. According to sources close to Kershaw, she takes an Australian size 13

We also hear that Kershaw's family initially feared her extra-large feet would prove problematic for her modelling career. Ranked today as the world number #4, evidently they had nothing to worry about.

Although we now wonder what, if any, role ill-fitting shoes may have played in Kershaw’s stumble on Rodarte's runway at New York Fashion Week in September 2008 – a fall that undoubtedly would not have helped what her agency has repeatedly described as a "long-standing" knee problem (which recently required surgery in New York).

shoe detail from rodarte's SS09 show/ (not kershaw's foot)
Or indeed, what role ill-fitting shoes may have played in Jagaciak’s spectacular fall on Hervé Leger’s runway in February 2009

monika jagaciak at hervé léger FW0910 via

To be sure, many models have come a cropper in high heels on fashion runways, with most simply assuming that it’s the height of the shoes that’s the problem. But what role might ill-fitting high-heeled shoes play in runway slip-ups? And in the interests of the occupational health and safety of their models, should designers perhaps take greater care to ensure that the shoes fit the models cast in their shows? Or with the shoes often organised well in advance of the castings, is that just hugely impractical? 

Six months after that fall at Rodarte, Kershaw in fact pulled out of the Fall/Winter 2009/2010 season altogether, with her agent citing the knee problem and an inability to negotiate “walking in high-heeled shoes”.

Little wonder she refused to walk in Alexander McQueen’s "Armadillo" monstrosities the following season.


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