When researching shoes from the 1920’s we automatically imagine the small heeled pumps of the Flapper Girl. An iconic shoe.
Comfortable and you can dance in them? No wonder all the ladies were obsessed with them.
Although, there were other shoes that were just as iconic and loved by women of the 1920s.
Below are the different styles of shoes worn by women in the 1920s and are even still worn by women of today.
Some are even mentioned in the classic Great Gatsby!
From the flapper girl pump to the T-strap Mary Janes, we cover everything you need to know about the shoe styles of women in the 1920s (to learn more about the style of the 1920, check out our post on 20s headwear here).
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First up is the shoe that truly encompasses the 1920’s, the Flapper Shoe.
The small kitten heel on these shoes makes them perfect for dancing all night long.
And the flapper girls of the 1920s really knew how to dance the night away.
With a little glitter to really make them pop, the flapper shoe is delicate and most of all comfortable.
The T-Strap strap ensures the shoe is secured to the foot without worry of it flying off as you dance and shimmy throughout the night.
They came in a range of colors ensuring that a woman had a pair of shoes to match every dress and feather boa.
The Classic 1920s Flapper Shoe was the perfect height and design for women all over the world.
With a 3 inch heel and a spike heel they made the perfect shoes for balancing while elevating the everyday look.
Today these iconic shoes are commonly worn by ballroom dancers.
Specifically latin ballroom dancers looking for a little bit of height and the ability to dazzle the judges with their dance moves and their shoes.
The standard slip-on pump was inspired by the Colonial pump.
Later known as a D'Orsay pump, it had a smaller toe box, lower cut around the vamp, and little to no embellishment.
Some pumps had elaborate bows or buckles on the toe box, making them somewhat resemble Colonial shoes.
They were often made of black patent leather meaning they were shiny and often considered expensive looking.
With a low heel or 2 inches the Step In Pump could be worn throughout the day for a polished look while still remaining comfortable.
They rarely come with a strap allowing the wearer to put them on and take them off with ease.
However, some pairs of Step In Pumps would come with a removable strap allowing the woman to change up her look every once in a while.
The most popular shoe of the Roaring 20s was a pump with a single strap across the vamp, now known as a Mary Jane.
Both fashionable "flapper" types and useful low-heeled comfort shoes and summer sandals were available.
Simple Mary Jane shoes with soft soles that didn't produce noise were essential for maids and other staff members to wear while moving about the home.
Mary Jane Pumps have been in style throughout the years.
The classic 2.5-3 inch heel with a rounded toe made everyday extremely comfortable as opposed to the pointed toe fit of the Step In Pumps.
The single strap provided security for the foot to ensure it stayed in place.
The Mary Jane Pumps quickly inspired many other variations of pumps to be created, however, many of these styles quickly fell out of fashion.
The Mary Jane pumps can be found in stores all across the country and online.
Traditionally Mary Janes were made from black leather or patent leather in order to last the scruff and tumbles of children as they wore them to school.
Now, the shoes can be made from leather, suede, and even vegan friendly materials (see also 'Are Uggs Vegan?').
The T-Strap shoe brings together the Mary Jane Pump and the Flapper Shoe.
They were commonly known as the Sally Pump or in Britain T-Bar Heels.
They featured the joining of a strap running across the ankle and a strap coming for the toe box up.
They were popular throughout the 1920’s among women who found the Flapper Shoe to be too condemning and the Mary Jane to be too adolescent.
The T-strap enabled the shoe to fit snugly while showcasing most of the stocking.
Allowing more conservative women to feel promiscuous while keeping her honor and innocence close.
The 3 inch heel provided women enough height to reach their dance partners shoulders while still being able to remain on the dance floor all throughout the hours of the night.
The T-Strap Pump became popular throughout the 1920s as women enjoyed showing more skin, however, by the middle of the 1930s, the toe and heel of the shoe had rounded off, and by the middle of the 1940s, the straightforward pump had gained popularity.
Today the T Strap has been replaced with high stilettos or platform heels or even sneakers.
They are now often worn by older ladies who prefer a smaller heel without having to wear flats to a special event.
The Lucille Dress Pump or Lattice Strap Pump were popular shoes among women of the 1920s.
While many opted for the excitement of the flapper shoe or the practicality of the Oxford Shoe, the Lucille Dress Pump became a happy medium.
These shoes had a wide band across the foot with cut outs in a variety of shapes.
The intention was to create a stained glass effect with the material of the shoe and the wearer's foot.
The heel of the Lucille Dress Pump often ranges between the comfortable military heel of the Oxford Shoe and the height of the Step In Pump.
Women could wear appealing shoes that made them feel sophisticated without dealing with the pain of a high heel when running errands or dancing the night away.
The Lucille Dress Pump often had an elasticated band across the foot or were lace up making them extremely more comfortably and conforming than the typical small buckle.
However, as the decade progressed, the Lucille Pump gained a little more heel and became a more T-Strap style shoe. Perfect for pairing with dancing dresses.
Women could wear the Lucille Dress Pump throughout the day and well into the night as they explored their new found freedom.
They were perfect as the elasticated or lace up closure kept the shoe secure and the smaller heel provided some much needed comfort.
Not to mention the often black leather patent or satin material offered a gorgeous sheen to the shoes =.
The dependable lace-up In the 1920s, women's go-to footwear was the Oxford shoe.
In the 1930s, when functionality over extravagant beauty was in fashion, they gained even more popularity.
Oxford shoes were plain leather shoes with a cap toe and a short 1 ¾ inch military heel.
They would lace up the front 3-5 eyelets and be tied with either a cord or ribbon.
They also featured the new rubber heel which meant women wear even more comfortable then their typical 2 inch heels.
The slight heel made Oxford shoes look dressier and more feminine, especially when laced with a pretty ribbon.
These shoes were soon the new rage for during the day as they could be worn with day dresses, afternoon dresses, or even trousers, a new fashion trend that was just beginning to enter the Western world.
As women remained in the workforce, the Oxford shoe became a staple in every woman's closet.
For all-day comfort and a lower price tag, working women, housewives, the elderly, students, and the extremely poor flocked to these straightforward shoes.
For grip on grassy areas, certain sports models had grooves or nubs on the heels.
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In the 1920s, the tennis shoe or sneaker began to gain popularity.
Women's athletes used flat, lace-up canvas shoes with flexible rubber soles like the Keds Champion Classics in white, black, and brown canvas.
Converse All Stars and other high top canvas sneakers were very popular, and they were worn for gym classes and indoor sports.
It was becoming more popular for women of the 1920’s to play a sport for leisure and along with it came some interesting fashion choices.
Much like women today wear yoga pants when running errands.
Tennis shoes were often made of a canvas material and could even rise up back the ankle stopping just below the shin.
Perfect if you happen to enter a muddy area of grass or are wanting to cover up a little bit more skin.
The biggest issue of the Tennis Shoe was selecting the right color. They were available in white, black, or brown.
Not like today when there is a whole array of color combinations, colored laces and patterns to choose from.
They would either come in one solid color or with a black trim.
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Women typically wore tall lace-up boots before the 1920s and during the first few years.
Women in their 40s and 50s who had trouble adjusting to wearing anything else favored them.
Walking boots frequently had a low heel, a squared-off or pointed cap toe, and hooks with laces that extended up to the mid-calf.
However, by the mid 1920s the act of wearing lace up boots everyday was practically unheard of. Instead women wore them as winter boots or hiking boots.
Women continued to create a boot look by pairing spats with low heel Oxfords into the early 20s.
Spats gave the wearer the opportunity to wear low, flexible shoes while shielding them from the grit and grime of the city.
They came in white, black, tan, or gray.
Tall jersey leggings that buttoned up the side and looked like spats were also available.
These may be over the knee or at any height, keeping women's legs warm in the winter and their stockings clean.
Lace Up Boots were often lined with wool or shearing to keep the foot, ankle, and leg warm throughout the winter months.
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Women continued to wear low-cut spats into their early 20s as well.
Through the revival of theater productions (Check out What To Wear To A Broadway Show), masquerade attire, Robe de Style gowns, and footwear, the 1920s paid homage to the 18th century.
The Colonial shoe had a decorative tongue, buckle, or shoe clip on the central vamp and was a slip-on low heel pump.
When fashioned of silk or satin, they were elegant enough for evening wear and useful for daytime wear.
Throughout the 1930s the Colonial Pump became a more muted version, the Slip On Court Shoe.
The addition of extravagant buckles and brooches was still done, however, the shoe features a slightly higher heel and a slimmer body.
The Slip On Court Shoe is still produced and worn by women today.
Mainly for office or formal wear over the daytime wear of the Colonial Pump.
Details of Shoes of The 1920s
Throughout the 1920’s women experienced freedom, liberation, and travesty.
All of which can be seen in the fashion trends throughout the decade.
They were faced with rules and regulations, often set by men and upheld by other women.
This means that in order to be true to the 1920’s fashion rules and constrictions, there are certain details the shoe must behold.
Shoes with robust "Louis" heels, also known as tango, curved, Spanish, or vintage heels, were appropriate for daytime wear.
They stood around two inches tall. The more durable military or Cuban heel took the place of the bent heel in the middle of the 20s.
House shoes and low walking shoes frequently had a 1-inch stocky Cuban heel.
Sporty oxfords and some midday heels looked great with the 1 3/4 inch "Military heels."
In the middle of the 20th century, rubber heels and soles were added to walking shoes for comfort and stability; otherwise, leather soles remained the norm.
Unlike today where shoes have a whole range of shapes and heights or even platforms, the women of the 1920s were constricted the height of their shoes.
Women commonly wore heels of around 2 inches which was increased to 3 inches with the rise of the Flapper Girls.
A small nod to women exploring their new found liberation.
In the beginning of the decade, the toe shape of a shoe was most likely to be very pointed.
This was following the Edwardian Shoe Trend of the previous decades.
As women began to explore their freedom in fashion and wanted to wear more comfortable footwear, a new shape was introduced, the almond toe shape.
By the end of the 1920’s the toe shapes on a lot of shoe designs were more rounded and some even nearing a square shape.
All of these shoe shapes are accepted and embraced in today's society.
Whether you prefer a rounded slip on pump or a pointed T-Strap heel, no one but you is likely to notice your change of footwear.
However, in the 1920’s women were only just beginning to explore the possibilities of being in control of their own fashion choices.
Even something as simple as having a squared toe shape was a rather large deal.
Materials & Colors
Leather made up the majority of shoes.
The most widely used materials were calfskin, kid, suede, reptile, alligator, and goat.
For the daytime, patent leather in both matte and shiny finishes was equally popular.
Heels with a high gloss sparkle were necessary for evening shoes.
Unlike today, people of the 1920s often had little regard for the effects of using animal skin in order to create their shoes.
With cow skin making the most high quality of leather, shoes of the 1920s would often last in terms of rips and tears.
Summer heels and athletic shoes were composed of robust gabardine or canvas material.
For ventilation, textile panels could be inserted inside of leather shoes.
Due to this, brown and white or brown and tan two-tone shoes were produced, with the unusual pair in black and ivory.
The color options for shoes were also very limited.
The most common colors of shoes tended to be shades of black, brown, gray, and beige. Beige was commonly known as blonde.
On the shoe body and straps, two contrasting leather kinds could be mixed to produce eye-catching swirl patterns, color blocking, or texture blocking.
Even with the production of tennis shoes which were made of canvas materials, colors were limited.
You would rarely find a regular person walking around with a pair of bright pink shoes on their feet.
Those were crafted especially for those of higher status and were more fortunate in terms of income.
At the conclusion of the decade, the more fashionable women opted for brightly colored shoes in strong red, orange, blue, and white, as well as any combination of these colors.
Red body with blue heels—sometimes striped—gave off an unmistakably Art Deco appearance.
Shoes which were for indoor use such as slippers (You might want to check out When Did Crocs Come Out?) were often made of satin, grosgrain, brocade, velvet or lambskin materials.
Indoor shoes were to be soft, shiny, and silky.
They could also be worn in the evening to a dinner or for a night of endless fun on the dance floor.
At the beginning of the 1920’s, shoes were often competed with a buckle or button.
These were covered in stones and metal sequins over diamanto onyx bronze, or pearl to really show off wealth and status
Those with less income would use button covers in order to mimic the effects of such jewels to help add some dazzle to their rather plain shoes.
Towards the end of the decade, straps got thinner, more geometric in shape, and embellished with precious stones or metal sequins.
More skin was exposed thanks to cutouts on the sides, toes, and straps, and more geometric "Art Deco" shapes could be formed there.
While the most iconic shoes of the 1920s continue to be the Flapper Shoe with its slightly raised heel and more exposing design made them extremely daring and sensual for the time.
However, there were many other styles that gained popularity throughout the decade.
A lot of 1920 shoe styles such as the Mary Jane Pump and the T-Strap Pump have continued to be popular styles throughout the years.
They are even common today only with a few minor variations.
The 1920’s were a time of discovering and exploration for women and it showed in their fashion choices.
They quickly ditched the all day heel for a military style heel on the Oxford Shoe offering comfort and practicality.
Although, the more sensual shoes were kept for the night time.
Whether you are dressing up from a Halloween party or wanting to add some history to your look, you can find all of the iconic shoe style of the 1920’s above!
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