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The Heights of Fashion: Platform Shoes Then and Now

Page history last edited by Nicole Jacobson 11 years, 3 months ago

The Heights of Fashion:

Platform Shoes Then and Now

April 25, 2009 - July 3, 2011

Mint Museum of Art 




Man's Platform Shoes by El Pederoso, circa 1974-79

burgundy and cream patent leatheron 1-3/4" platform soles with 4" heels.

Private Collection.Photo courtesy of LovePVintage.


Throughout time, elevated shoes have appeared in cultures around the world. In Ancient Greece, actors wore thick-soled shoes to heighten their stature, while in Europe from about 1600-1750, tall pedestal shoes called chopines were worn by some women in high society and the demimonde. In Northeast China, thick platform shoes were fashionable in the Manchu culture and in Japan, tall platform sandals became part of the traditional dress of geishas.


Fashionable platform shoes first appeared in Europe and the United States in the 1930s and 1940s, but reached their greatest popularity during the 1970s. Platforms continue today as fashion statements worn by both sexes. Top couture designers create unique platform shoes that move, sometimes cautiously by the wearer, from the runway to the street. The Heights of Fashion: Platform Shoes Then and Now showcases an array of approximately 60 platform shoes from the 1930s through the present.


Check out the Heels.tv video of the exhibition! 


Watch Charles Mo, Director of Fine Arts for The Mint Museum talk about it!


History of Footwear and the Platform Shoe:

  • Footwear History - The history of western footwear from the High Renaissance to the 1990s, including the anatomy and construction of a shoe.
  • A Century in Shoes -  A comprehensive history of shoes in the 1900s including the platform of the 1970s
    • includes a "Before this Century" timeline link at the bottom of the screen with facts such as Louis XIV's fascination with the platform sole 
  • The Costume Institute - A look at the shoe collection of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; includes a few examples of the platform shoe and the earlier Venetian chopine

  • The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto - Information on shoe history from all over the world including a look at the pedestal shoe of China and a complete timeline of western shoe history. The collection also includes a hall of fame of shoes of famous celebrities including Elton John's platform boots
    • Teacher's Resources from the Bata Museum - classroom activities and projects from Heights of Fashion: A History of the Elevated Foot
  • Platform Diva - Website detailing the history of the platform shoe from the 1600s to the 1990s 


Historical Examples of the Platform Shoe:

  • Geta - a form of traditional Japanese sandal
  • Buskins - worn by ancient Greek and Roman tragedians
  • Manchu Women's Platforms - designed to mimic the small, bound feet of Chinese women
  • Chopines - worn in Venice by both courtesans and patrician women in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries
  • Pattens - worn during the Middle Ages  


 Print Resources available at The Mint Museum Library:

  • Bata Industries. All About Shoes : Footwear through the Ages. Toronto : Bata Ltd., 1994.
  • Ellsworth, Ray. Platform Shoes: a Big Step in Fashion. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 1998.
  • Hart, Avril. Historical Fashion in detail : the 17th and 18th Centuries. London : V & A Publications, 2006, 1998.
  • O'Keeffe, Linda. Shoes : A Celebration of Pumps, Sandals, Slippers & More. New York : Workman Pub., c1996. 
  • Trasko, Mary. Heavenly Soles : Extraordinary Twentieth-Century Shoes. New York : Abbeville Press, c1989.
  • Walford, Jonathan. The Seductive Shoe: Four Centuries of Fashion Footwear. New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2007.


To find more books on shoes and fashion, search MARCO, the Mint Art Research Catalog Online 




Created by Rebecca Stockin, Volunteer at the Mint Museum Library




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