Kalena’s Italian Shoes is celebrating fifty years of business in iconic Little Italy on Commercial Drive and we would like to take you on a journey through the equally iconic history of High Heels in North America and the fashion that surrounds them, starting with the fabulous fifties until our present era.
This article is the first in a series that will explore the fashion styles, celebrity fashion trends and culture of High Heel shoes throughout time.
Stay tuned for much more to come but for now, our story begins in the post-war era of the 1950s:
World War II had just ended and the American gross national product was on the rise, doubling between the years of 1945 and 1960. The government was spending a lot of money on programs and city construction that benefited the population and rates of unemployment and inflation were low in addition to wages being high.
Middle class people experienced a surge in additional income and this, combined with an increased availability of consumer goods, led to people spending more money on luxury items. This included killer heels which were modeled at the time by top Hollywood stars.
The 1950s also saw the rise and success of fashion designers like Christian Dior and his fellow shoe designer, Roger Vivier. Pointy-toed stiletto heels that became all the rage in this decade were the result of their combined work.
Breathtaking Butterfly Heels by Roger Vivier
The general fashion of the day featured bigger dresses, more lavish accessories and higher hairstyles so let’s take a look at some of the heels that followed suit.
FASHION: THEN AND NOW
Stilleto Heeled Opera
Stilleto Heels From The 1950s
These beautiful-looking shoes were quite tall, featuring thin heels that reached 4 inches in height.
The shoe’s defining features were tall arches and a V-shaped cutaway on the sides. The Stilleto Heel was originally released in Italy and was the brainchild of the aforementioned Roger Vivier.
The Stilleto Heeled Opera was primarily worn for formal occasions, as well as photo shoots and runway walks for celebrities and fashion models.
In our modern era, the Carmen Leather High Heel pays tribute to this classic and embodies many of the same characteristics, including a sexy 4-inch heel and a sleek, high-fashion look:
Carmen Leather High Heels
Baby Doll Pumps, 1950s
Baby Dolls were a type of pump that was often worn around the house or in less formal settings and although it often had rather high heels, it also sometimes featured a more low to medium, thicker heel.
The name came from the fact that they had rounded toes and resembled doll shoes of the era. Baby Dolls were especially popular during the spring and summer and often were adorned with cute accent decorations and ornaments.
The Vernissage Low Patent Suede Pump has a lower heel than most of the Baby Dolls of the fifties but there's no need to suffer for style all of the time. It certainly embodies the same level of sheer cuteness offered up in the original with a timeless design that fits well in both formal and non-formal affairs:
Vernissage Low Patent Suede Pump
Ad For Vintage Sandals in the 1950s
Sandals in the 1950s evolved to show more skin than their 1940s era, more conservative counterparts and often had a higher heel height as well. Most sandals available at this time had chunkier heels and a medium thick ankle strap around the heel, referred to as a slingback.
The slingback strap made sure that women's feet would not slip out of their shoes and provided an additional element of comfort and support.
As for the 2010s, the A&M Leather Criss-Cross Sandal is a perfect example of the progression in high-heeled sandal fashion over the ages:
A&M Leather Criss-Cross Mid Heel Sandal
Now that we've seen some examples of high heels that were popular in the 1950s and their modern equivalents, let's get to the good stuff: champagne brunches, high-profile film sets and luxurious red carpet events.
What were the trendy high heels worn by the elites of the silver screen? Let's take a look:
High Heel fashion also took over the celebrity world, with the top actresses of the era modeling shoes that defined feminine fashion.
When it comes to the real movers and shakers in the cinema world who really influenced the perception of high heels as a must-have fashion item, there are two film titans who defined the trends of the 1950s.
I'm talking, of course, about Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe.
There aren't many people out there who would disagree that Audrey Hepburn was one of the most impactful fashion icons not only of the fifties but of all time.
How could a woman who once said, "I believe in manicures. I believe in overdressing. I believe in primping at leisure and wearing lipstick." NOT be an example of fashion not only as a way to dress, but as a means to express oneself?
The star of such classic films as Breakfast at Tiffany's, Roman Holiday and Sabrina, British-born Hepburn was not only an A-List actress but a Humanitarian, Model and Dancer as well.
Fifties Style Dress With Heels
When it comes to bringing out your inner Audrey, there's a particular shoe that comes to mind. The Kalena's Low Heel Pointed Toe Pump really captures the look and feel of Miss Hepburn's style and is flexible in it's role in both formal and casual situations:
Kalena's Patent Low Heel Pointed Toe Pump
If Audrey Hepburn was the queen of the silver screen, the very different but nonetheless equally beautiful Marilyn Monroe was the princess of the pin-up.
Although she starred in several films, it was less her acting and more her glamorous modeling shots that captured the heart of the nation, saying nothing to mention her high-profile romances with partners such as beloved crooner Frank Sinatra and baseball legend Joe Dimagio.
Marilyn Monroe Performs for the Troops
Marilyn really did have an amazing affect of people with her array of different looks in all her films, photographs and high-profile public appearances. The above photo shows her at an event for the troops wearing elegant and sexy high heels.
The fifties were an era of great change and of increased prosperity in North America that brought with it a sort of Golden Age for the High Heel shoe. Styles changed to reflect this more high-class environment and shoe designers had more liberty to be creative with their designs.
Join us next time as we explore the High Heel fashion evolution along it's natural course into the 1960s.
Until then, I leave you with an entirely appropriate quote from the late, great Marilyn Monroe:
"Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring."
Do you love high heel shoes? Kalena Italian Shoes has a wide variety of high heels in all shapes and sizes and for all different occasions and seasons. Be sure to browse our online catalog and sign up for our mailing list to get ten percent off of your first purchase and get a chance to win a five-hundred dollar gift certificate.