Allow me, for a moment, to ladysplain: No woman ever—no woman, at least, who has had any kind of say in the matter—has walked around her home in stilettos. No. Woman. Ever. Heels may lengthen the leg and swagger the walk and do all manner of aesthetically pleasing things to the lower limbs of the human body; they achieve all this, however, by creating in their wearer a step-by-step discomfort that builds, depending on the design of the shoe and the length of its wear, from the “very mild” to the “extremely torturous.” Which means that heels—and stilettos, in particular—are public shoes, performative shoes, shoes that are tolerated when one is out in the world and that are shed, immediately, upon one’s return from it. No woman ever—no, but really, No Woman Ever—has gotten home, looked down at her sky-high heels, and thought to herself, “Nah, I’ll just go ahead and keep them on.”
So it is strange and striking that Claire Underwood, who is a human woman if also a fictional one, spends the early episodes of Season 4 of House of Cards permanently clad in stilettos. Claire, now the First Lady of the United States, wears her signature shoes—the shoes that complete her “power dress code”—not just when she is making public appearances, giving speeches and attending international summits and what have you, but also when she is not, technically, “appearing” at all. There’s Claire in the kitchen of the White House residence, hanging out with her husband while teetering in stilettos. There she is visiting her childhood home in Texas—among horse stables and tangled grass, upon soil that is so perilously soft—clad in sky-high heels. There she is nursing her mother in the same impractical footwear. In a scene that finds Claire exhausted from a day of, in every sense, dealing, she returns, finally alone, to the retreat of her lush bedroom, lies down on a chaise, assumes a fetal position, and falls asleep. In her heels.