'Essex girls' defended by council chief

THE leader of Essex County Council has defended the reputation of the county's female population after a slight by journalist and broadcaster Esther Rantzen.

THE leader of Essex County Council has defended the reputation of the county's female population after a slight by journalist and broadcaster Esther Rantzen.

Writing in a national newspaper about the return of the white stilettos, the 66-year-old Childline founder questioned the fashion sense of the county's women - saying “even they” wouldn't go back to wearing them, and made jokes about their intelligence and lack of class.

However in a firm letter to the paper, council leader Lord Hanningfield defended the honour of his female constituents.

He said: “While I do not have my finger on the pulse of fashion, as Esther Rantzen obviously does, I do know that the stereotype of white stilettos being the traditional 'national costume of the Essex girl' is as outdated as shoulder padded jackets.”

He also celebrated some of the local women who have “shaped history” while changing the perceptions, over the years, of the Essex girl.

Boadicea, Germaine Greer and Dame Helen Mirren were all held up as examples of women connected with Essex whose achievements should not be underestimated.

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He said: “I am very proud to be from the county and know there is more to the women who live, work and play here than the type of shoe they wear.”

In the article, Ms Rantzen claimed fashion “gurus” were now telling women that they should all be wearing the aforementioned footwear.

She said: “White court shoes look clumsy and clunky. No matter how beautifully you walk, you will still look like Minnie Mouse and the fashion writers know it.”

She blames the economics of the industry for the continual need to sell new styles.

She adds: “Most British women have too much class, and the white stilettos are common.”

The monochrome classics are branded the “Jade Goody” of shoes that only go with “fake leopard-skin sofas and gold anklets”.

She said: “They are traditionally the national costume of the Essex girl, and although the jokes about her may be unfair and untrue, they don't make her out to be an arbiter of taste.

“Even an Essex girl knows that going back to her white stilettos will brand her as tasteless as surely as a glass of Babycham or a fake Burberry baker's cap.”

LORD Hanningfield was backed women in Colchester yesterday, who were unimpressed by Ms Rantzen's decision to bring up the old Essex girl stereotype.

Keziah Roxburgh, 30, said modern girls were actually more likely to be found wearing flat shoes, such as ballet pumps, rather than fit the old image.

She said: “I don't think you'll find some on the high street. They're all in flats - not a heel in sight. Anyway, doesn't Essex University have some of the best female results from across the country?”

Some ladies, when asked were pleased to hear that Lord Hanningfield's had backed them up. However, others clearly felt Essex girls were capable of standing up to the ridicule.

Maria Jenkins, 36, said the out-dated view from the 1980s was even a generalisation back then.

She said: “We can defend ourselves. We're not all like that - there are not many girls who wear them. Why shouldn't we be proud to come from Essex?

“Everyone we meet always makes a dig about Essex girls, but it's just a few who have made a name for themselves and created the stereotype.”

Simone Smith, 26, who has lived in the town all her life, said girls from the county should not be singled out, as has been tradition, for their perceived crimes against fashion.

She said: “I'm not that bothered by it - I just think 'whatever', to be honest. It's old and outdated.”

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