The platform has had two major debuts in the world of women’s shoe fashions. The first was in the 1930s, when Italian shoe designer Salvatore Ferragamo devised his wedge heel. That shoe was born of necessity—sanctions against Mussolini’s Italy made it difficult to acquire materials. Ferragamo turned to plentiful, Sardinian cork, which he “wedged” in layers under his shoes in place of wooden heels.

The shoe was initially intended to supply the local Italian market, but influential buyers in other countries took notice. Judy Garland was one such customer—for her, Ferragamo created a platform sandal in 1938 that was marked by rounded bands of multi-colored chamois over the cork platform sole, with gold kid straps up top.

As the war approached, and while it raged, leather was in increasingly short supply. Undaunted, Ferragamo began to make the uppers of his platform shoes from raffia or even cellophane, which he dyed in a kaleidoscope of colors and then crocheted to create a rough-hewn replacement for hide.

During World War II and thereafter, platform shoes began to be featured in major U.S. department stores, from Bonwit Teller to Saks Fifth Avenue. Women liked the way the platforms echoed the shoulder pads of their jackets, as well as the extra height it gave them. They snapped up platforms with chunky heels at the back and platforms in the front in gold, red, green, and brown. Most of these platforms were secured at the ankle with a slingback strap.

Other platforms popular in the U.S. during the 1940s were more like sandals, with higher lifts in the front—2 inches was not uncommon. Many of these shoes had elaborate embroidery on their suede, snakeskin, or mesh uppers. In retrospect, some seem to hint at fashions to come. For example, the open-toe, rhinestone-studded silk and satin sandals with 5 ½-inch heels that were sold at Jay Thorpe in the ’40s would have looked perfectly at home on the dance floor during the late-70s disco craze.

The 1970s, of course, was the other defining moment for the platform and the wedge. Glam rockers and disco dancers alike used platforms to literally put themselves on pedestals. Wedge cork heels reached stiletto-worthy heights, and even Oxfords got a boost from platform soles. For a while, patent leather numbers in bright red, shimmering gold, and a range of other clown-shoe colors were all the rage. There were even wooden platforms deep enough to hide retractable roller skates.

Today, platforms and wedges are just two more arrows in the shoe designer’s quiver. For example, Christian Louboutin routinely squeezes modest, flat platforms under the toes and ball of the foot, making his 5-inch heels a bit more manageable. Platform pumps from Gina are just as daring, and in some circles even more prized...

Chanel did platforms, as did Delman, Kork-Ease, Biba, and Ralph Lauren. But the contemporary queen of the platform was Vivienne Westwood, who left the world of punk fashion to challenge women with platforms that required wearers to balance themselves as much as 8 inches off the floor. These platforms, clearly, were not for everyone, which is perhaps why the outrageous designer figured they might as well be purple, too.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

All About Shoes

All About Shoes

From Canada's Bata Shoe Museum comes a visually impressive exhibit focusing on the history of the shoe from traditi… [read review or visit site]

Virtual Shoe Museum

Virtual Shoe Museum

This virtual museum from Shoe Icons Publishing showcases over 800 pairs of shoes and related reference information.… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Christian Louboutin Altadama Black 10 40 Leather Peep Platform Pump Shoe $945 H9Yves St. Laurent Ysl ~nwd~ $925 Tribute 105mm Leather Platform 6 36 Sandals RkNo.6 Clogs Black Leather Size 37 (us 7) Slingback High Platform Very Good Cond.Nib Ysl Yves Saint Laurent Tribute Platform Sandal Mandarin Orange Sz 37 7$895Christian Louboutin Metallic Gold Ankle Tie Platform Open Toe Sandal Sz 36.5 6.5Kris Jenner Chanel Black White Leather Platform Sandals Shoes Size 38.5Christian Louboutin Highness 160 Nude Patent Peep Toe Platform Pump Heel Shoe 42Hot Christian Louboutin 123 Patent Leather Buckle Double Platform Shoes Yellow 7Kris Jenner Chanel Black Leather Studded Wood Platform Sandals Size 38Jimmy Choo Brown Leather & Gold Ankle Strap Cork Platform Wedges Sandals 38Christian Louboutin Black Formentera Platform Wedge Espadrille With Ties Size 39Christian Louboutin Black Satin Open Toe Very Prive Platform Pumps Heel 37 GucChristian Louboutin Wedge Platform Heels Sz. 40Ysl Yves Saint Laurent Red Suede Leather 'tribute Two' Platform Pumps Size 38Chanel Women's Black Leather Double C Logo On Cap/ Platform W/chain Size 6.5 MPrada Mens Metallic Clear Platform Wingtip Oxfords Sz 9.5Kris Jenner Celine Off-white Brown Wooden Platform Sandals Sz 38Auth Christian Louboutin Miss Fortune Tan Leather Lace Up Platform Sandal 140 41Auth Christian Louboutin Tan Canvas Peep Toe Platform Heel Sz It 38 8Kris Jenner Yves Saint Laurent Leather Side Zip Platform Heels Sz 38.5~new Saint Laurent Nude Patent Leather Platform Janis Pumps / Heels ~ 37.5Women's Turquoise (blue) Suede Christian Louboutin Platform Shoes-size 36 (us-6)Jimmy Choo Brown Snake Skin Round Toe Platform Pump Sz It 36.5 6.5Prada Collection *mismatch* 7 37 / 6 36 Tall Leather Platform Boots Womens : MhFree People Desert Gold Clogs Women 38 8 Platform Shoes *new* RareChristian Louboutin Lady Peep 150 Mm Multi Glitter Platform Pumps Shoes 6.5/36.5Christian Louboutin * Red Strappy Leather Platform Sandals * Size 39.5 * 4.4Nib Prada Platform Sandals In Blue (size 8.5 Us/39 Eu)Acne Studios- Black Leather- Lark- Platform Oxford- Size 40/10Auth Christian Dior Mauve Satin Tie Around Ankle Ballet Style Platforms Sz 37 7Tory Burch Selma White Platform Wood Wedge Turnlock Leather Gold Turn Lock 6 MYves Saint Laurent Dark Blue Leather Platform Ankle Strap Sandals Sz 37 7 Givenchy By Chanel White Black Platform Wedge Heel Sandal Shoe 41/10-11 $1195 !!Dolce&gabbana New Woman Floral Print Yellow Wedge Platform Slingback Shoes 37 ItChanel Beige Sandals With Perforated Wood Platform 39.5Yves Saint Laurent Black Patent Leather Platform Mary Janes Sz 36.5 6.5 In BoxJohn Fluevog, Size 10, Black Meera Platform Heels, Beautiful, DiscontinuedTory Burch Tan Selma Platform 3" Wedges Size 7Stella Mccartney Elyse Tan Star Platform ShoesCeline Black Leather Slide Loafer Platforms Sz 38 8Michael Kors Josephine Wedge Wood Platform Luggage Brown Leather Sandal Heel 6.5Women's Versace Studded Platform Heel Size 37 1/2 Saint Laurent "tribute" Suede Caramel High Platform Sandal 4 Inch Heel Size 7.5bChristian Louboutin Black Patent Leather Peep Toe Platform Wedges Sz 37.5 7.5Well Worn Bebe Black Leather Platform Strappy Sandals Used 5.5" Heels Shoes Ysl Saint Laurent Gold Black Heels Dress Pump Platform Shoes 38.5 Janis LadiesYves Saint Laurent Ysl Black Patent Leather Gold Platform Wedges / Heels ~ 38Prada White Black Leather Platforms Pumps Heels Shoes 40 NwobJimmy Choo Patent Leather Wedge Platform Espadrilles In Color Nude; Size 38Prada Cacao Brown Leather Calzature Almond-toe Platform Pumps Sz 41 11 In BoxOmg! Best 1970s Disco Shoes Peacock Purple Platforms Unworn Deadstock Mod FunkyJeffrey Campbell Vashon Mulder PlatformNwb Christian Louboutin Hidden Platform Size 36 Black Pump Brand NewAuth Christian Dior Light Pink Satin Ankle Strap Ballet Style Platforms Sz 37 7Giuseppe Zanotti Patent Leather Stilletos Platform Open Toe Shoes Sz 41/ 11Tsubo Shoes, Sandal, Platform, Soft Leather, Confortable, Black, Size 7, MediumTory Burch Sandals "dixon" Green Patent Slide Shoes Platform Clogs 8 M Pre-ownedChristian Louboutin Leather Platform Eu 40 Us 9 - 9.5 Black PumpsNwob New Giuseppe Zanotti Metallic Leather Trimmed Platform Wedge Sandals 41Authentic Chanel Peep Toe Cc Logo Pearl White Patent Platform Heels Size 6.5 37