Friday, 9 April 2010

History of...

...written by Sherin

Photo Credit: The Guardian

High heels are definitely one of the most important items in any girl's wardrobe. A good pair can make any woman feel elegant, slender and very glamorous. I'm a huge fan of high heels and like to wander around in 4-5 inch heels. They actually have a long and really remarkable history behind them.

The history of high heels can actually be traced back to Egypt, 3500BC, where murals on walls show upper class citizens wearing heels for ceromonial purposes, as well as Egyptian butchers wearing them to help them walk through the blood of dead animals (thank you wikipedia for that mental image).

However, it wasn't until the 16th century when it is claimed that high heels were properly invented. It was in 1533, when Catherine de Medici decided to wear heels on her wedding day to Henry II, a Duke and the future King of France. She was 14 and quite short (not more than 5 foot), so asked a cobbler to make her shoes that would make her appear much taller on her wedding day.
Apparently, she wasn't really a beauty and her husband had a tall and really pretty mistress. She wanted to dazzle the French on her wedding day, so opted for 2 inch heels to make her appear slightly taller, and appear to have a more towering physique. It is claimed that she is the original inventor of the high heel, and she did set the rage in Paris for heeled shoes.

Other monarchs who loved to wear heels were Mary Tudor, who loved wearing heels as high as possible, and Marie Antoinette, who famously wore a pair of 2 inch heels when she was executed.

With the success of heels thanks to Catherine de Medici, heels became really popular in the French Court, amongst wealthy men and women, and this quickly spread to other parts of the nobility. Heeled shoes became very popuar amongst the rich and powerful people and was seen as a dividing line between classes. The phrase 'well heeled' was used for the rich.

It remained that only the rich wore heels for quite some time, and even in the early 1700's, Louis XIV (King of France) decided to wear very high heels (often upto 5''), which had decorative patterns on them, such as miniture battle scenes. It was Madame de Pompadour who helped Louis popularise high narrow heels, which are often referred to as either the 'Louis' heel or the 'Pompadour' heel.

The shoe was quickly banned after the French revolution, when Napoleon came to power (late 18th Century-early 19th Century). )Napoleon wanted everyone to appear equal and because the heel was somthing that rich people used, many didn't want to be linked to it. The French Revolution was all about moving away from traditional hierarchies and society moved away from aristocratic values.

The 18th Century also saw heels becoming very controvesial in America. The Massachusetts Colony banned women wearing them, saying that women used them to trap men, and anyone seen wearing them would be prosecuted as witches. The English Parliament also used this logic and treated women wearing heels as witches. Many critics at the time compared the high heel to the cloven hoof of the devil.

It wasn't until the late 1800's that heels became popular again. The invention of the sewing machine meant that there could be greater variety in high heels themselves.

But it wasn't until my favourite perfiod of history, the roaring twenties, that the heel regained it's full glory again. Hemlines became much shorter, and this encouraged very high and slender heels.
Both the 30's and 40's were tough times, so the heel became more moderate, with lower and wider heels. At the same time, though, Hollywood gave the heel a new edge, with many actresses wearing sparkly and glitterry heels, which challenged the traditional French heel.

The 50's and 60's saw a revival of really high heels. Christian Dior kindly invented the stiletto for us. He collaborated with designer Roger Vivier to develop a low cut 'Louis' shoe, with a narrow heel. Interesting fact: Stiletto in Italian means small dagger, with a slender, tapering blade.
Then, with the creation of the miniskirt in the 60's (my second favourite decade), heeled boots were made, to enhance the look of bare legs.

The emerging feminist movement did a lot to change perceptions on how the heel was viewed. Many women stopped wearing heels as it was claimed that wearing them indicated the sexual stereotyping by men. They were seen as 'man made' objects for the use of crippling women.

This theory lost favour in the 80's, with the invention of power dressing. Heels were bought back to the catwalk, with Manolo Blahnik's shoes making a huge impact, and the world has never looked back.

Sherin xx


MJ said...

this post is a shrine to heels!!! i love it! i mean if a shoe doesn't have a heel i dont even consider it much of a shoe hehe.

fritha louise said...

I didn't realise heels had such an interesting history! Thanks for such a great post!

Amy said...

I'm usually only interested in military and political history, but this worked, too ;)

xo A

Anonymous said...

Very interesting! I didn't know it had such a rich history and caused such controversy!


CC said...

Amazing post! Great read. :) I've always loved the historical side of fashion.

Rachel said...

Great post, Sherin! This was a really interesting read! :)

Audrey Allure said...

Great post, and interesting history on heels!

Dusk said...

Aaah...a shoe fetishists delight... :)

Fantastic read, very interesting, thank you...funny that heels were thought of as 'crippling women'...sure, I understand why but really, they elevate women, to be seen, to rise above.
...even though my daughter is 6 foot, so very rarely does, I love it when she wears heels! I too cannot do without a heel.

Anonymous said...

This is amazing!!! loved the history lesson..i just learned sooo much!
who knew procrastinating on blogs can be educational?


The Trendy Fashionista said...

Wow I didn't know that. This post is fabulous. BTW I love your new layout

-The Trendy Fashionista

Cafe Fashionista said...

Yayay! I adore you for posting the history of high heels, Sherin - this is FABULOUS!! :)

daisychain said...

wow such an informative and fun post x

Yellow n Pink Creations said...

NEVER LOOK BACK WORLD!! I dont know where I would be without my heels.. I luff them! thanks for the history

Arushi Khosla (FabBlab) said...

Okay a) this post is bookmark-worthy and b) HELLO, I LOVE what you've done with the layout! Looks like Template Designer has suited everyone pretty well ;D Suck, Wordpress users!

Couture Carrie said...

Fabulous post, darling!
Love the history!


Leah said...

Thanks for sharing this brief history... I enjoyed reading it. xoxo

Graham I. Haynes said...

Fascinating! I really appreciate people who take fashion history seriously. This is a story I'm sure not many people know about.

PS. I feel like some sort of caveman thawed out and reanimated. I took 2 weeks off from blogging and you have all these amazing posts and a new layout! I love the top photo under "Welcome" :-D

Vanessa said...

Wow, really interesting post! I'll always love heels even though I do fear what my feet will be like when I'm an old lady.

Harriet said...

This is a great post - I lvoe your history of... posts, they're always so interesting!

Cheryl said...

Very interesting post, Sherin! Although I love high heels, I can only go as far as 21/2 ins. because I think I´m a little flat footed. High heels really elongates the legs and make you feel sexier. ;)

She Wore It Well said...

Very interesting post, thank you!

Dina's Days said...

Great post! I love researching the history of things we wear all the time. I was just researching the history of denim the other day! The picture of the king in heels is hilarious!

Tasha said...

Oh my goodness! I loved reading about the history of high heels! Alot of this info was new to me! What a great idea for a post!

Stefanie Grace said...

What fabulous pictures!! AND I LOVE the new look site! Nice work guys! xx

Copyright Statement

Copyright HiFashion

All photos are taken by me, unless otherwise stated. If you do see one of your pictures here and would like me to remove it, or you would like to use one of my pictures, all you have to do is send me an email and ask.