For decades women have been dazzling in their high heels, turning heads and making bold statements. They have been the cornerstone of women’s wardrobes since the days of old.
While fashions and heel heights have changed the one thing that has remained is the power of a good heel and the wonders it can not only do for a woman’s outfit but also how it can boost her self-esteem.
While in the 17th-century heels were worn contrastingly as a sign of masculinity and high social status often worn by kings and nobles, the trend then spread into women’s fashion also.
By the 18th century, high heels had moved along the fashion lines and were more predominantly worn by men when riding or for their higher-legged boots.
While women’s heels had become more narrowed and pointy, very similar to the more modern heels we know today.
It was during the 20th century that heel widths began to change with a narrow thin heel being seen as more of a sign of femininity, while men still considered a block heel as fashionable.
Looking back over the decades we’ll look into 10 of the best vintage heels you need to keep in your wardrobe.
Let’s be honest who doesn’t love the art deco vintage look, its style is chic and glam, high heels in the 1930s were a mix of sturdy practicality with beautiful embellishment including broguing (small holes), cut out, and applique decorations.
These heels were a mix of the tapered block, while still offering slimmer elegance with the Spanish and Cuban styles. The coverings were a mix of block straps and full lace-up oxfords.
While in contrast, Old Hollywood inspired the 1930’s elegant range of evening dancing heels.
2. Oxford Heels
This leads us nicely to the Oxford heels, very popular in the 1930s and 1940s, the Oxford was a stacked-heeled, lace-up shoe, practical and comfortable enough to wear running errands as well as to the office.
Predominantly featuring in either black or brown, these stylish shoes can be found today in a multitude of different fabrics and colors.
Originating from the 1880s in Ireland and Scotland, eventually, these shoes were hyped up by university student wearers known as ‘Oxonians’.
These shoes have always been popular as they are easier to wear than stilettos but a little classier. Perfect in the workplace as they tend to look good with anything from formal to informal ensembles.
3. The Wedge
This semi-formal shoe should be in every lady’s wardrobe, great to be styled with not only midi dresses for their vintage look but also with jeans and a pretty blouse.
The wedge, with its thick, raised heel was not only sturdy but extremely sexy with the way it shapes a woman’s leg.
Originally a beach shoe, this style is perfect in the summer months as wedges can now be found in lighter fabrics, with sling back and ankle straps.
They also look amazing with midi and maxi skirts and dresses, adding a touch of elegance to these outfits.
The Slingback shoe was originally worn as a day shoe with lower heel height however over the decades, the height of these feminine shoes has increased.
Initially designed with rounded toes or peep toes, these shoes eventually became popular with a pointed toe, once again the pillar of elegance and femininity, popular with pinup girls and Hollywood stars.
These shoes teamed with either a lower or higher heel can be perfectly matched to formal occasions such as weddings and christenings (find more vintage wedding shoes here).
5. Slip-On Pump
These non-strap-heeled shoes were worn in a similar way to the slingback. Often decorated with various types of bows attached to the front of the shoe as well as the perforations and cutouts.
These shoes also often featured detachable shoe clips which could transform the shoe from day to night.
These shoes had a taller-than-average heel height for the era and tended to be more of a curved Louis style, moving away from the traditional Cuban style.
This style of shoe was also popular in the ‘two tones’ spectator combination, which featured generally a white shoe with either a brown, navy, or black back, heel, and winged toe front. Perfect for spicing up your suits or even dresses for the office.
6. Peep Toes
An absolute fave throughout the decades, featuring on Hollywood starlets and in various publications. While this style of shoe was most popular in the 1940’s it is still a firm favorite today with its exposed skin cutouts and perforations.
These shoes feature a small hole at the front of the shoe but the toes can be hardly seen, keeping the shoe cute without being too sexy.
Peep toes can be found on a variety of different heels from slingbacks, to wedges and sandals.
Today the peek-a-boo toe heel tends to feature a slightly larger hole at the front than the authentic 1940s designs.
These shoes can look gorgeous teamed with midi-style dresses and skirts as well as trousers and jeans.
7. Mary Janes
Traditionally these shoes were designed to be children’s shoes with rounded toes and flat heels, although they were eventually known as the dancing shoe.
This shoe’s iconic feature was their across-the-foot buckled strap or t-bar strap, they now have a variety of heel heights and styles as well as toe shapes.
Today the Mary Jane shoes have evolved into a more tapered rounded or pointed toe, its heels have also been found to now have block or stiletto heights and widths.
This style of shoe can add a little flirtiness to your summer dresses or dress up a pair of skinny jeans for drinks at the bar.
Platforms were first introduced in the 1930s as a beach shoe, synonymous with movie stars like Carmen Miranda.
These shoes like the wedge are fairly comfortable with an overall raised arch of about an inch or so and are easier to walk in than most high heels.
Over the decades they have fallen in and out of popularity, becoming extremely popular again in the 1970s for both women and men.
And once again in the 1990s and early 2000s although with a slightly higher heel this time.
These cute pumps were the height of sophisticated fashion in the 1950s and 1960s, their thin, shorter, kitten heels replacing the taller thinner style.
Women found these heels easier to walk in while still offering a good shaping of the leg. This style of shoe was popular as a slingback, especially looking sophisticated for evening wear.
It is still a popular choice today for pairing with your outfit if you are going to the races, to a wedding, or christening.
10. Stiletto Heels
Tall, thin heels have always been a popular choice since the 1950’s also known as the golden age of high heels, technological advances meant that heels could be made taller and thinner, offering a shoe that provided the wiggle in a woman’s walk for the sexy pencil dress.
This style of shoe helps to shape the leg and create an elegant silhouette. They look amazing styled with dresses as well as suits and jeans.
Made even more popular during the 1980s by various celebrities such as Tina Turner and Madonna.
During this time, these stiletto heels were basic in appearance but bright in color, and shiny patent black made them stand out.
Although not only was the point stiletto heel popular in the 1980s as it still is today, peep toes, ankle straps and bows made them reminiscent of earlier decades and fashions.
Over the centuries and decades, high heels have evolved from the height of masculinity to the height of femininity. They have reformed from a shoe that projected wealth to shoes of the masses.
They have also left their practical, functionality behind to be replaced with style and sex appeal.
Helping to emphasize and arch the wearer’s back as well as extending the buttocks – also known as the natural courting pose.
All these types of high heels can also be now found in boot form even down to the peek-a-boo toe.
High heels have become one of the most versatile forms of women’s shoes, being considered fashionable and professional dress amongst many women, especially with a pantsuit.
Women’s love of the high-heeled shoe has fluctuated over the years, with a lull in the 1970s as women became tired of dressing for men but then a peak again during the 1980s, high heels have never quite disappeared out of fashion.
Today people are beginning to once again dress outside the gender norms, experimenting with fashions and looks to create their own individual styles and expression of personalities.
The high heel is perfect for this experimentation whether it’s with recreating the extremely feminine looks of Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn or going down the style of more androgynous looks from the 1920s, 1980s and now, a few extra inches of height can make all the difference to perfecting your outfits.
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