Stiletto Heels

By Heleigh Bostwick

Nothing symbolizes 1950s fashions more than the stiletto-heeled shoe. Stilettos, as most people call them, made their debut at a Christian Dior fashion show in the early 1950s. Within a few short years stilettos, with their pointy toes and spike heels, were all the rage among women.

Dior is the French fashion designer who took the fashion world by storm in 1947 by launching what is known as “The New Look”, completely redesigning dresses to emphasize the curves of the female body. Dresses were designed with cinched waists, tight bodices, three-quarter length sleeves, and full skirts. After the more masculine looking fashions of the post-war period, this focus on femininity in clothing was a welcome change.

Roger Vivier, a Parisian shoe designer, was Dior’s counterpart in the shoe world. Vivier is credited with popularizing stiletto heel shoes by specifically designing shoes to complement Dior’s glamorous new clothing collections.

Stilettos were the perfect shoes for the glamorous new fashions. They emphasized the length of the leg and made a woman seem more delicate. Wearing stiletto heels also throws off the body’s natural alignment pushing the bosom out farther in the front and the derriere farther out in the back—in effect exaggerating those womanly curves.

Almost every stiletto-heeled shoe had the same basic look, a pump with a low vamp or “peep toe” (for that all important toe cleavage) and a tall slim tapered heel, typically 3 to 4 inches in height, sometimes higher. As the decade progressed heel heights became higher and heel sizes became smaller--sometimes tapering to as little as 3/8 of an inch in diameter. Stiletto heels had (and still have) a metal pin running through them for support and to allow that impossibly tiny heel to exist.

1950s fashion meant that shoes, handbags, gloves, and hats were to be perfectly matched with the outfit. Therefore, stilettos were designed in a variety of colors and fabrics including suede, kid leather, snakeskin, lizard, and brocade. The vamp was often accented with a velvet or satin ribbon or bow. Some stilettos were made of fabric and then completely covered in pheasant or peacock feathers, which were popular decorative accents for hats and handbags during the 1950s.

Although stilettos have never really gone out of fashion they reached the height of popularity in the late 1950s. As the 1960s rolled in, and the concept of feminism became more widespread, pointy toes and stiletto heels were replaced by square toes and chunkier heels.

Heleigh Bostwick is a freelance writer and collector of vintage fashion accessories and clothing. She is the publisher of Marigold Lane, an online resource for simple living with a green twist.
 

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Fifties Fashion - Roger Vivier, a Parisian shoe designer, was Dior’s counterpart in the shoe world.

Roger Vivier - Paris

Fifties Stilettos were the perfect shoes for the glamorous new fashions. They emphasized the length of the leg and made a woman seem more delicate.

brocade - pair

Fifties Fashion - Almost every stiletto-heeled shoe had the same basic look, a pump with a low vamp or “peep toe” (for that all important toe cleavage) and a tall slim tapered heel, typically 3 to 4 inches in height, sometimes higher.

brocade - side

Some stilettos were made of fabric and then completely covered in pheasant or peacock feathers, which were popular decorative accents for hats and handbags during the 1950s.

red stilettos

 

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