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    

Nib $1395 Christian Louboutin Aborina 150 Silver Platform Pump Heel 36 6 5.5 NewChristian Louboutin No Barre 140 Jazz Calf Peep Toe Mary Jane Platform Pumps 41Christian Louboutin Black Patent Leather Open Toe Platform Pumps Size 37 7Christian Louboutin Bianca 140 Platform Black Patent Leather Heels 40 9.5 9Alexander Mcqueen Ss14 Runway Maya Python Platform Sandals Sz39.5 100%auth!rare!Authentic Miu Miu By Prada Glittered Espadrille Platform Shoes - Sz 36 - EucYsl Yves Saint Laurent Burgundy Patent Leather Tribute Platform Sandals 38.5Gucci Claudie Horsebit Blue Patent Leather Block Platform Sandal Heel 40 9.5 9 Charlotte Olympia Dolly Platform Pumps Size 38.5 *worn Once!*Stella Mccartney Elyse White 8.5 38.5 Cutout Platform Oxford Shoe New $995 Vince Elise Espadrille Sandal Platform Sincerely Jules Size 9Christian Louboutin 35.5 Very Priv Nude Peep Toe Platform Pumps. Orig. $800Valentino Triple Big Bow Snakeskin Ankle Strap Platform Sandal Heels 39.5 9.5 9 Balenciaga Slingback Sandal / Black Grunge Leather Two Band Platform, Size 37Gucci Orange And Cork Platform Slingback Size 7.5Miu Miu Silver Platform Sneaker, Wn Sz 7 (37it), $595 RetailEuc 6" Italian Heels Red Patent Leather Cfm Platform Peep-toe Pumps, Size 38Prada Sport Black Leather Platform Wedge Heel Sandals Size 38 8Tory Burch Miller Leather Wedge Platform Slides, Black, Size 8Jimmy Choo "alex" Patent Nude Platform Pumps Women's Us Size 9Chloe 41 British Tan Pebbled Leather Renna Slingback Platform Cork WedgesEuc 6" Italian Heels Plum Leather Cfm Platform Pumps, Size 38Christian Louboutin Black Suede Peep Toe Very Prive Platform Pumps Size 35 5Louis Vuitton Blue Denim Leather Monogram Platform Sandals Size 35.5 5.5Jimmy Choo Multi-colored Coarse Glitter Peep Toe Platform Crown Pumps Size 38 8Miu Miu Platform Sneakers ShoesYves Saint Laurent Vernigolf Tribtoo Platform Pumps 37.5 RubisChristian Louboutin Classic Pump Black Patent Leather Wood Heel Platform 38.5Christian Louboutin~size 41~wedge Platform~lace-up~green & Pink~summer Ready!Prada Patent Leather Burgundy Platform Shoe Size 36Prada Leather Bow Cap Espadrille Platform Shoes 36.5 Nero Black Robert Clergerie Black Patent Leather Slide Platform Sandals Size 7.5Miu Miu By Prada Women's Burgundy Leather Platform 60s Style Buckle Heels 39Gucci Betty Suede Mid-heel Pump Round Toe Platform Heel Sz 37.5 Euc!Ultimate Fetish Stiletto Platform High Heel Pumps 8.5Miu Miu Black 9 39 Perforated Leather Pointy Cap Toe Platform Sneaker Shoe $595Christian Louboutin Black Suede Platform Bibi Pumps Size 39.5Rocket Originals Red & Cream 40s Style Peep Toe Wedge Platform Sandal Uk8 Us10Alaia Black L7 R7.5 Suede Cutout Circle Platform Sandal Shoe New $800 MismatchFluevog Miracle Platform Ankle Boot Shakti Size 7.5Nib $99 Michael Kors Warren Platform Brown Wedge Sandals Size 9mGucci Betty Black Leather Platform Pump High Heels Womens Size 8.5bValentino Garavani Grey Suede Stiletto Platform Pump Shoe Size 7Brand New In Box Guess Women's Size 6.5 Korrinely Platform HeelsFly London Black Suede Sandals Platform Wedge Size 38 Us 7.5Christian Louboutin Black Cork Platform Size 38Jimmy Choo Vachetta/patent Black/tan/nude Mix Wood Platform Heels 38.5 Orig $875Stuart Weitzman Jean Adobe Patent Cork Platform Wedge Sandal Size 10m B2012 Kork-ease 'nadja' Platform Mule, Tan Leather, Size Women 10, $165Burberry Black Leather Platform Wedge Heel Plaid Sandals Size 37 7Eileen Fisher Wooden Clogs Slides Mule Platforms New In Box Nine West Qutiepie Platform Slingback Black High Heels Shoes 12mFly London Womens Yip Mousse Black Platform Wedges Fashion Shoes Size 41 Zi-1355Charlotte Olympia Eccentric Red Platform Heels $835 Size 41Eileen Fisher Canoe 2 Platform Flats $179 Size 8 Runs Half Size SmallYves Saint Laurent Tribute Blue 6.5 36.5 Tstrap Platform Sandal Shoe $1145 Prada Black Patent Leather Espadrilles Platform Wedge Sandals Shoes Heels 37 7Cole Haan Delfina Black Leather Nike Air Platform Wedge Sandals Size 9Yves Saint Laurent Tribute Silver Black 6 36 Tstrap Platform Sandal Shoe $1145Women's Jimmy Choo Platform Suede Open Toe Shoe Size 8