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Sole Mates:
An Enchanting Tale of Women's Shoes
Once upon a time, humans discovered the practicality of using natural materials to protect their feet from harsh environments. From bark, leather, and wood, women have taken the function of footwear to another level and have developed expressive styles that have since come full swing.

Did you know that as late as the 1850s some shoes were still made on absolutely straight lasts? This meant that there was no difference between the right and the left shoes. Though convenient when waking up in the morning, breaking in a new pair of shoes was not easy.

Victorian morality of the late 19th century required women’s ankles to be covered to protect them from men’s prying eyes. The priority of this time was function, not fashion, but the rare glimpse of the exposed foot while walking inspired boot makers to adorn their creations with silk fabrics, lace, buttons and metallic thread embroidery.

The early part of the 20th century is often referred to as the Belle Epoque, or “Beautiful Age.” Women of this time leaned toward classical aesthetics. The obsession with corseting and narrow portions of the body caused people to develop a preference for narrow feet. Women regularly wore shoes that were a full size too small, and some women even opted to have their little toes removed to achieve narrower feet.

The foot became the focal point of fashion during the 1920s. The Industrial Revolution opened the world to creative design. Mass production and the development of affordable synthetic fabrics such as satin, silk, and velvet granted everyone access to beautiful shoes, and shoes were elevated to accessory status. The Mary Jane, a T-strapped shoe with a heel and buckle, was popular at this time.

In the 1930s, women began to wear peep toe pumps showing the tiniest bit of a women’s toenail. By the 1940s, wedge heels had a hold on fashion as the thick, sturdy heels made walking easier, and fashion became less restricting. Stiletto heels, strapless shoes, and flip flops then took the spotlight in the 1950s as shoes became a form of self-expression.

The 1960s were a time of exploration and expression. Boots for women came back into fashion and the 1970s introduced the platform sole. The starkly different fashion senses of the punk movement, glam rockers, and the hippie culture flooded the shoe market.

What era of fashion do your shoes resemble? Take a look!