Platform shoes

Platform shoes

Fashion Synopsis

Also known as the towers of terror, platform shoes were stilts for the height impaired, and plain fashion fancy for those who wanted even more.

Before your feeble attempts at “Stayin’ Alive” on the disco floor, 15th century Venetian royalty were poised on the precarious platform shoe. As far back as the 1400’s, Venetian aristocrats slipped their feet into wooden and leather platform shoes known as the chopine. These shoe adaptors were tall blocks of wood that lifted the ladies high above the mud and muck of the streets. Chopines were functional overshoes: ladies slipped their delicate silk shoes into the shoe protector, and the height prevented their long skirts from dragging on the ground. The wobbly wonders rose to outrageous heights, as much as 24 inches above the uneven cobblestone streets, and required escorts to support the lady as she walked.

Five centuries later, women stepped back into the towering blocks in the name of fashion. The 1930’s revived the stacked platform sole in wood and cork, albeit much shorter for the modern world. Cork’s light weight made it a favorite choice for the chunky sole, and the platform became a beachwear staple. As hemlines rose in the 40’s , women climbed into the sweet ankle-strap style platform until it was replaced by the flat-soled ballet slipper of the 50’s.

By the late 1960’s, platforms returned and remained entrenched on feet for the whole of the 70’s. These platforms were not the simple platform sole and stacked heel of the 40’s, however. The 70’s platforms turned gigantic and got wacky and wild as pieces of art. Whether you were down and dirty on the disco floor or taking a quick jaunt to the grocery store, platforms were there. Both men and women, young and old, strapped into the harrowing heights of the platform shoe. Covered in burlap, gleaming in glitter, sturdy in solid wood, or lightweight in cork wedges, the platform was a shoe for the stars.

Elton John pounded on his piano in as many wacky pairs of eccentric elevator shoes as he had crazy sunglasses. KISS stomped around in massive elevator boots, and John Travolta wouldn’t have made it on the dance floor had it not been for his dancing shoes. Keenan Ivory Wayans’ 1988 parody of 70’s chic, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, exposed the extreme fashion by featuring fishbowl platforms. Yes, inside that gigantic plastic heel swam real fish…now that’s whacked.

Platforms fell from the pedestal by the early 80’s when pumps took feet to their conservative corners. But by 1993, platforms were officially back. Disco was experiencing a revival, and teens dusted off their parents’ platforms from the back of the closet. Young ravers in the club scene pasted their sneakers onto rubber platform soles, and the elevator sneaker made its debut. The Spice Girls were never seen without their platforms in super heights and crazy designs like the Union Jack. Even fetish shoes made the mainstream when the clear-bottomed, stilleto-heeled teeter-totter shoe was balanced on by the likes of Pamela Anderson and her imitators.

Could it be that the platform was even hotter now than it was in the Saturday Night Fever of the disco decade? Girls who had grown up with technologically savvy sneakers faced a serious problem: While the platform shoe was a sexy substitute, the death-defying duo of stacked sole and heel was not easy to master without previous high heel training. A rash of injuries and accidents occurred as a result of platform novices clomping around on the street as if they were snug inside their Air Jordans.

Please remember, kids, the platform is not a toy, and with great height comes great responsibility. Wear them with pride, but wear them with care.

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