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    

Malika Haqq Christian Louboutin Brown Leather Platform High Heels Shoes Sz 40Christian Louboutin Volpi Floral-print Peep Toe Platform Pumps $995 Size 38.5100% Authentic Christian Louboutin Bianca Platform Pumps Shoes Black Patent 35Jimmy Choo Black Patent Leather Peep Toe Platform Luna Pumps Size 38Malika Haqq Yves Saint Laurent Ysl Blue Suede Platform High Heels Shoes Sz 39Authentic Jimmy Choo Blue Suede Glenys Platform Gladiator Shoes Size 37 $1200 Ysl Yves Saint Laurent Tribute Platform Sandal Us Shoe Size (women's) 8 (38)Malika Haqq Yves Saint Laurent Ysl Brown Platform High Heels Shoes Sz 39Timeless Christian Louboutin Decollete Zeppa Black Leather Platform Pump Guc 39Ysl Yves Saint Laurent Tribute Platform Sandals Stilettos Suede Multicolored 37Valentino Satin Bow Peep Toe Ribbon Shoes Pumps Nude Pink Platform Heels 36.5Cassie Ventura Versace Black & Gold Metal Platform High Heel Strappy ShoesLouboutin Pink Dyed Red Viveka Platform Peep Toe Suede Sling Back Heels Sz 37 /7Malika Haqq Christian Louboutin Black Suede Platform Peep Toe Heels Sz 41.5 NewCassie Ventura Yves Saint Laurent Ysl Gold Platform T Strap Heels Sz 39.5Tod's Bronze & Black Open Toe Platform Sandals Size 7Malika Haqq Gucci Black Suede Platform Peep Toe Heels W/ Box Sz 40.5Christian Louboutin Alti Spikes 160 Nappa Leather Platform Pumps 41 11 Jimmy Choo Crystal Platform Pumps Size: 7.5 $2,995Malika Haqq Giuseppe Zanotti Royal Blue Platform Peep Toe Heels W/ Box Sz 40Prada Cork Platform Sandals Nwb Sz 36 (6) Black Leather Slingback Wedges $890Nib Stuart Weitzman Black Suede Platform Over-the-knee Tall Boots Sz 6 $595Christian Loubotin Cataclou Studded Wedge Heel Sandal Pink 37 Platform Chanel Quilted Cork Platform Cc Logo Wedge Slides Patent Leather 37 Us 7 - 7.5Kate Spade Night Owl Platform Slingback Stiletto Pumps 9.5m $550 NwobChristian Louboutin Royal Leather Platform Peep Toe Pump!! Size - 38 1/2Malika Haqq Christian Louboutin Cork Black Platform High Heel Shoes Sz 39Christian Louboutins Nude Cork Platform Closed-toe Slingbacks 40.5Cassie Ventura Giuseppe Zanotti Black Leather Studded Platform High Heels Sz 39Ysl Yves Saint Laurent Tribute 105 Leather Wood Heel Platform Sandals Shoes 39Robert Clergerie Platform Suede Green Loafs Nwob Green Sz7 NrUsed Christian Louboutin Hyper Prive 120 Yellow Patent Platforms Size 40New Robert Clergerie 'arcoa' Natural Raffia Platform Sandals Shoes Size 7.5 BPrada Collection *mismatch* L 8.5 38.5 / R 9 39 Platform Pumps Shoes Womens XjChanel Quilted Cork / Black Patent Leather Platform Wedge Shoes Size 40 / 10 UsCassie Ventura Versace Champagne Patent Leather Platform High Heel Boots Sz 39Christian Louboutin Authentic Platforms "lady Peep 150 Glitter" Sz. 37mGucci Black Patent Leather Covered Platform Pump Size 6.5Valentino Brown Leather Platform Slingback Sandals W/ Beaded Flower Design Sz 37Chanel Auth Black Leather Lace Up Cork Platform Heel Bootie Shoe Logo 39 Us 9Ysl Yves St Laurent Grained Leather Black Tribtoo Platform Pumps 41Tory Buch Meredith Platform Wedge Studded Leather Mules Khaki Canvas Peeptoe 8Fly London Black Leather Platform Wedge Bootie With Zipper-eur Size 39Cassie Ventura Giuseppe Zanotti Electric Blue Platform Heel Ankle Boots Sz 39.5Christian Louboutin Black Satin Peep Toe Platform Pumps 133mm Sz 10.5/42Vtg 90s Fluevog Munsters Sz 8 Black Gothic Witchy Platforms Sz 8 GucYsl Authentic Tribute 105 Sandal Vulcano Pewter Platform T-strap 38 - 8bSaint Laurent Studded Platform BootieJimmy Choo Black Patent Leather Cork Wedge Ankle Strap Platform Heel Shoe 8.5Michael Michael Kors Platform Pumps - Hamilton High Heel Size 9m Ac342Christian Louboutin Bianca Spikes Size 40 High Platform Nude Us Size 10Valentino Garavani Stud Jute Leather Wedge Espadrille Sandals 38 Euc PlatformChristian Louboutin Troca 140 Caraibes Platform Peep Toe Pumps Heels Shoes $845Auth Chanel Beige Leather Black Toe Cap Platform Pump Heels Sz 36.5 6.5 In BagAuth Jimmy Choo Champagne Patent Leather Peep Toe Platform Pumps Sz 37 7 In BoxExtreme High Heels Sexy Fetish Platform Pumps Size Eur 43 Us 11 Men WomenChanel White Patent Leather Cork Platform Wedges Sandals 42 10 10.5 New SlidesIsabel Marant Haley Platform Sandal Black New Amazing So Comfy! 39Christian Louboutin Navy Patent & Suede Criss-cross Platforms, It 35.5 Us 5.5Miu Miu Black Leather Platform Ankle Boots Sz 38 8