Bid to kick heels to the curb

Vote with your feet on 'sexist' policy, diners urged


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Two women revived a campaign Friday against restaurant dress codes in a bid to end the practice of compelling women into short skirts and high heels.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/03/2016 (2640 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Two women revived a campaign Friday against restaurant dress codes in a bid to end the practice of compelling women into short skirts and high heels.

For years, it’s been an industry requirement at some establishments for women to wear high heels and short skirts when they take drink and meal orders, despite medical evidence high heels wreck feet and contribute to back damage later in life.

Amy Tuckett-McGimpsey and Allison Ferry say sex appeal may sell but is not worth the cost to women’s dignity or to their backs and feet.

.BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Amy Tuckett-McGimpsey is urging customers to pressure restaurants into ending the practice of mandating high heels and short skirts

“We need another conversation, we need to start to talk to restaurants and to include people, the public, to make a statement with their dollars. Don’t go eat there. Sign our petition,” said Amy Tuckett-McGimpsey.

“Stop Sexist Dress Codes” is a petition posted Friday on, an online site that hosts petitions. It lists four popular Canadian restaurant chains and their presidents, urging supporters to write letters of protest to Mo Jessa at Earls Restaurants, Thomas Gaglardi at Moxie’s Grill and Bar, Jeff Fuller at Joey Restaurants and Peter Fowler at Jack Astor’s Bar and Grill in Toronto.

A local manager at the Earls on Main said she was familiar with the Hell on Heels campaign, and she promised to call back after the lunch rush. The Free Press had yet to hear from her by 5 p.m.

Moxie’s at the MTS Centre referred a reporter to their head office in Calgary, which did not return a call Friday.

The official dress code at Earls was written up in a manual, with one-inch heels and mid-thigh skirts but there was an unspoken dress code, said Ferry, who worked for four years at one of the Winnipeg Earls locations.

“It was basically a matter of endurance and how far you were willing to go, to move up,” Ferry said by phone from Montreal, where she is completing a master’s in communications at Concordia University.

The shorter the skirt, the higher the heel, the better the hours and the bigger the tips, Ferry said.

“I believe I did wear three-inch heels for awhile. I think I was treated differently by customers, but it wasn’t something I was aiming for. Customers perceived you as more sexual, more open to advances. They would flirt with you. (There was) a lot of trying to wrap their arms around your shoulders, touching you on the arm. A lot of things you don’t necessarily do as a server,” Ferry said.

In 2013, Tuckett-McGimpsey took the Hell on Heels campaign forward with a 12-minute documentary in an effort to reform provincial employment standards around servers’ dress codes and high heels.

As a former server and massage therapist, McGimpsey had suffered the aches and pains herself and considered heels hell. And she’d seen damage to other women, who suffered lower-back problems and came to her for therapy.

Now she’s back, after a break to start a family and land a full-time job.

“I’ve been seeing a lot of conversations about sexualization in the restaurant industry. It’s sort of ridiculous this is still happening in 2016,” McGimpsey said.

Barely a week ago, heels took a high-profile hit when U.K. fashion diva Victoria Beckham told the Telegraph she “couldn’t do heels anymore,” a transition from stilettos to flats that had the fashion world in virtual mourning.

The issue is back in the news in Canada, too. CBC’s Marketplace was slated to air an exposé Friday evening on how restaurants use their servers’ sex appeal to lure in business.

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