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Fashionable History: Platform Shoes

March 21, 2011

Well, it was bound to happen. The seventies are having a heyday in the fashion biz, and sooner or later we all knew that platform shoes were set to make a comeback. While wedges, platform pumps, and stacked heels have always been in style, we haven’t really seen the “flatform” shoe since a certain late-nineties girl band (who we’ll come back to later). It’s kind of weird being old enough now that I’m already recycling trends. With some trends reemerging from my youth, I can’t help but have an adverse reaction. (Leggings? Like what I wore when I was six? No, thank you!) But with others, it’s kind of fun. (Canvas tennies? Like the ones I wore when I was six? Yes, please!) Even though my Vans platform sneakers were my first defining shoe moment, I still have mixed feelings about this. I should form an opinion one way or another, though, because it only seems like they’re getting more popular by the week. The Prada platform “creepers” are particularly well-known,  having already made their way through the runways, style blogs, and editorial spreads.

You can also find them in cool-girl stores like Opening Ceremony:

and cool-girl runways, like Derek Lam:

For Gen Y-ers, the trend may have us looking back to the nineties, and for our parents it may remind them of their glory days of disco. But, platforms actually have a history nearly as long as fashion history itself. You can find platforms tracing all the way back to the Greeks, where actors wore them on stage for a more imposing presence. They were also the calling card of prostitutes, who wore them so the sound would announce their arrival and advertise their services.

The biggest player in early platform history was the chopine, a shoe that was popular in Venice from the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries, with the biggest surge of popularity during the Renaissance. They were a status symbol of the most wealthy wives used to elevate them as the most important part of a room, and could be as high as twenty inches tall! Although, they were most commonly between five and nine inches high. Often, women would need a special servant to assist them with walking in them. Platforms were also popular in eighteenth century Europe so that the higher classes could rise above the muck filling the streets and the bottom of their clothes or legs wouldn’t get dirty. These first models were made of either cork or wood, and could be very heavy. They also had a flat insole that didn’t take the shape of the foot into account, and were very uncomfortable to walk in (for this and many other reasons), especially for women with a high arch.

Platforms faded into obscurity until the 1930s, when a few designers – most notably Salvatore Ferragamo – brought them briefly back into vogue.

In the next couple of decades, platforms could be found on the market, but they weren’t very popular. Finally, they hit their commercial peak in the seventies. The sixties through eighties were the most prolonged era of the platform fad, and were particularly loved by disco divas, even being worn by men.

In the eighties, the style waned from the mainstream, but stayed strong in the glam rock world. There was an attempt to bring them back into fashion by Vivienne Westwood in the early nineties in her now infamous runway show where she sent supermodel Naomi Campbell tumbling in her ten-inch platform boots.

But, platforms didn’t really take hold. That is, not until these ladies came onto the scene:

 

I don’t really know how platforms fit into Girl Power, but I do know that Baby, Scary, and Ginger loved them and therefore so did millions of girls from about age five to thirty. Platforms were officially back in fashion for basically the same couple of years that the Spice Girls were. Then, they once again faded into the background, until today.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 23, 2011 3:12 am

    No. No platforms. Please no.

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