Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Shoes of the '40s and '70s

I read a little article in the Antiques Roadshow Insider newsletter on "The Way We Wore," meaning women's shoes through the ages.  It was quite interesting and put me in mind of two favorite eras of mine: the 1970s and the 1940s.  

I lived through the 1970s, and although I can't make a really convincing case for the fashions of that decade as truly "fashionable" as in "classic,"  I can say that the colors we wore, the types of fabrics we employed (polyester, satin, and knit anyone?), and the madness of the designs will last for some time.  It all blended together into what was known as the "disco era."  It's a perfect phrase to encompass the abandon of the color combinations, the flammable nature of the fabrics, and the changes taking place in society at that time, and not least the music.

Shoe design followed suit and was often as "wild and crazy" as the clothing.  No color was too loud.  No platform too high.  No bow too large to fit on a shoe.  We walked around in admittedly clunky heels, afraid to fall off a curb and break an ankle.  But when you did master those platforms, the feeling was one of  almost Amazonian power and glamor.  At a height that was 3-4 inches taller than your natural stature, standing on a substantial heel, and wearing either the tiniest mini or the chicest maxi, you were truly "in fashion."

The 1940s: that's another matter altogether. Along with the 1930s, it's my dream fantasy era.  Oh to have been 20 years old in 1935! Although the Depression was on, pretty young things danced the nights away at speakeasies, wore long dresses and beautiful, velvet shoes and donned close-to-the-head hats.  By 1941, the US was in the War and things had gotten tougher...the boys had all gone into the military, most women worked, and rationing was on.  Dresses were now shortened to content with fabric shortages and shoes became clunkier than those of the previous decade.  The Big Bands played, patriotism was de rigeur, and everyone was writing letters to a soldiers.

My view of those decades is informed by what I've read, photos I've seen, and of course, by Hollywood.  I revel in black-and-white movies that show us that far-away fantasy place where most people were rich and lived in incredibly large apartments, wore designer clothes, and spoke in very precise, beautiful English (complete sentences, no mumbling).

Anyway, on to the shoes...The designs of the '70s owe and obvious debt to those of the '40s.  The same clunky heels; bows, peep-toes, platforms and wedges.  Almost without exception, we could have worn a 1940s shoe in 1975 without it going detected as "old" [nothing was "vintage" then].

I compiled some photos to illustrate what I mean about similar designs and simply to showcase how creative some of the shoes were.

'Til tomorrow...
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