Million Dollar Stems to Karlie Kloss’s Knockout Limbs

Best Legs
“Walking Legs,” the much anticipated exhibition of Guy Bourdin’s 1979 photographic series for the shoemaker Charles Jourdan, opens at the Michael Hoppen gallery today. With signature Bourdin-style Surrealism, the images depict quarter-legs in killer shoes shot in desolate locations (all discovered between Brighton and London on a road trip the French photographer took in a Cadillac). As we marveled at the photographs, we couldn’t help imagining what those disembodied limbs would have looked like attached to their owners—which got us thinking about the shifting cultural ideals surrounding a slender calf, willowy ankle, or sculpted thigh over the past 100 years.

Drumsticks, gams, pins, pillars, uprights, getaway sticks—the sheer number of American colloquialisms for women’s longest limbs are an indication of their power. Legs, of course, are more than a means of support and locomotion. They’re the symbol of a women’s freedom. Despite the Victorians’ attempts to conceal them under crinolines and cages, the turn of the century found them kicking free and giving birth to what referred to in 1957 as “beautiful American leg legend” (which the likes of Cindy Crawford and Karlie Kloss continue to perpetuate today).


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