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 Black Patent Leather Platform Slingback Pumps Size 40$3895.00 New Auth Christian Louboutin Decorapump Strass Platform Pumps Size 37Christian Louboutin Black Leather Round Toe Platform Pumps Size 41Louboutin L9.5 R8.5 Gold Fuchsia Platform Sandal Heel Shoe $2455 New Mismate I66Christian Louboutin Nude Patent Calfskin Lady Peep Platform Pump 39.5/9.5Christian Louboutin 'lady' Glitter Peep Toe Platform Pump 39.5 Chanel Wooden Slider Sandals Cc Suede Shoes Trainers Platform Pumps HeelsValentino Rockstud Platform Heels 37Givenchy Black Leather Open Toe Platform Heels Size 39 NewChristian Louboutin Troca 140 Black Kid Leather Peep Toe Platform Pumps 39 Height Of 1940s Fashion. Black And Gold Peep Toe, Platform Wedge Shoes 6.5 MJimmy Choo Brown Patent Tortoise Peep Toe Platform Pumps Size 41Christian Louboutin Zeppa Shoes Platform 41.5 11.5 New Heels Wedges BlackYsl Patent Leather Tribute Platform Sandals2015 Eileen Fisher 'sport' Platform Red Pebbeled Leather Sandal Shoes Sz 8Christian Louboutin Bianca Platform 5 1/2" Stilettos Black Patent 35 No ReserveChanel Black Patent Leather & Wood Platform Heels Size 38Christian Louboutin Leather Zoulou Strappy Platform Sandal 160 36.5 Corde 89819Tory Burch Sandals Size 6 Platform SlidesBrian Atwood Black Suede Platform Heeled Booties Size 6.5Louboutin L6 R5 Black Patent Platform Sandal Heel Shoe $595 New Mismate Iju267Jimmy Choo Patent Leather Platform Sandals Us 6 New With Box & Dust Bag!Ysl Yves Saint Laurent Black Patent Leather Platform Tribute Pumps Size 41Gucci Made In Italy Platform Leather Espadrille Size 36.5 Us Size 6.5Tory Burch Patti Tan Leather Platform Heel Wedge Slide Sandal Size 9Prada Mismatch 7 37 / 6.5 36.5 Brown Suede Womens Platform Ankle Booties JgYsl Yves Saint Laurent Black Suede Platform Tribute Pumps Size 40Christian Louboutin Daffodil Red Platform Pumps 37 7 $1095Jimmy Choo Black Satin & Star Jeweled Peep Toe Platform Pumps Size 41Gypsy Soule Brown Studded Swarovski Crystal Turquoise Platform Flip Flop SandalFly London Yakin Soft Black Leather Slinbgack Platform Wedge Sandal Shoe Eur 38Womens Fetish / Stripper Heels Size 10 8" Heel / 2-1/2 "platform Wow! Christian Louboutin Platform High (black Us Size 7) Pigalle Spikes 100 Felt L.a.m.b Meredith Platform Pump 9.5Christian Dior-eu 36.5 Hot Pink Peep Toe Platform Pumps Orig. $800 UsdPrada Women Metallic Cap-toe Suede Platform Sneaker, Gray Sz6/36 Fits 6.5 $495Pedro García Black Suede Platform Wedge Strap Sandal Sz 37.5. Made In SpainTory Burch Tan Platform Wedge SandalTory Burch Size 7.5 & White Leather Platform Wedge Sandals Jimmy Choo Black Patent Leather Open Toe Espadrille Platform Sandals Sz 36 6Gucci Tan Leather Gg Running Platform HeelsChristian Louboutin Bianca Black Patent Leather Platform Pumps Heel Size 38100% Authentic Valentino Platform Heels With Spike Detail$495 Thierry Rabotin "brescia" Black Chunky Platform Strappy Sandal - Size 37Tory Burch Platforms Nwob, Size 11, Green And NavyChristian Louboutin No Barre Black Patent Peep Toe Platform Pump Heel 38.5New $995 Bottega Veneta Iconic Leather Platform Ankle Boots Bootie Sz 39 / 9.5Robert Clergerie Pink Beige Fabulous Platform Peeptoe Shoes Sandals 39.5Tory Burch Patti Wedge Slip-on Platform SandalsPrada Miu Miu Navy Blue Suede Platform Wood Tall Sandals Euc 36.5Michael Kors Josephine Leather Wedge Platform Sandal Brown Size 7.5Christian Louboutin Tatarina Slingback High Platforms Suede Black Size 9.5(39.5)Auth Chanel Dark Gray Pumps High Heel Platform Shoes 39 SparklingNew Charlotte Olympia Louise Brooks Platform Heels 40Authentic Christian Louboutin Snakeskin Platform Open-toe Slingbacks, Size Eu 37Calvin Klein Vivian Suede Platform Sandal, Deep Blush,7 M UsYru Ballet Bae Platform Satin Pink Size 8Authentic Christian Dior Platform Heels Wood Leather Shoes Size 42 11usUnif Mary Chain's Size 6 Black Platforms & WedgesJeffrey Campbell Womens Lita Platform 5" Heel Leather Boots Black 7.5 New