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 Deroba Denim Platform Cork Wedge Ankle Bootie 36.5 $595 NewNew Authentic Christian Louboutin Satin Ribbon Pumps Platform Highheels Size 38 New Yves Saint Laurent Mahogany Open Toe T Strap Platform Heels Sandals Sz 37 7Christian Louboutin Lady Corset 150 Platform Pumps Shoes Pink Suede 36.5Gucci Black Noah Stiletto Platform Bootie Size 37.5/7.5 Nib Retails $675 +Yves Saint Laurent, Ysl Tribute Black Patent Leather Platform Sandals Size 37.5Cesare Paciotti Beige Snakeskin Platform Pumps Size 37 NewChristian Louboutin Lady Bow Satin Platform Peep Toe Pumps Size 39.5 Us 9Fabulous 100% Authentic Chanel Lucite Platforms! Sz 38 Black Gold Shoes Wedges 100% Auth. Christian Louboutin Nude Patent Leather Daffodile Platform Pumps Christian Louboutin Nude Patent Leather Platform Peep Toe Shoes (size 39)Christian Louboutin Dafsling Glittered Platform PumpWholesale Lot 100 Womens Shoes High Heel Platform Wedge Pump Sandals Boots FlatsChristian Louboutin Bianca Nude Platform Pumps 42=12$895 Christian Louboutin Lady Peep Toe Camel Platform Heels Size 37 / Us 7 Christian Louboutin Black Patent Leather Cork Heels Ankle Strap Platform SandalAmazing Christian Louboutin Loubout Bootie 6" Heel Platform Size 38Anthropologie Portable Art Platforms Sz 39 - Kron By Kronkron Very Nice Peep ToeChristian Louboutin Kasha Leather Platform Caged Studded Booties/shoes Sz. 38Christian Louboutin Black Bianca Platform Pumps 140 Size 40 100% Authentic Ysl Tribute Leopard Calfskin Platform Sandals Size 36.5 Bebe Brown Leather Gladiator Platform Sandals Calf High ~ Size 9 ~ NwotJimmy Choo Black Volume Suede Wood Lucite Platform Sandals Heels 38 Stunning Miu Miu Black Leather Platform Over Knee Boots Size 37 Uk 4 Boxed Alexander Wang Black Leather Aymeline Platform Pointed Toe Boots Sz 38 8Tory Burch Tan Camel Leather Open Toe Slides Platforms Sandals Wedges Shoes 7.5Prada Platform Boot- Blk, 36.5!!Valentino Rockstud Crisscross Platform Pump Size 7 Black/pinkJimmy Choo Kuki Patent Platform Pump Sz 37.5 - Retail $850Prada, Fume Sandals, Platform, Black With Flowers, Gently Used, Sz 37Rachel Comey Crochet Tan Caramel Leather Clogs Platform Heels Sandals Size 7Jimmy Choo White Patent Leather Espadrille Platform Slides Wedge Womens 37$1k Nwot Gucci Black Suede Platform Gold Python Snakeskin Ankle Strap Sandals 37Ysl , Authentic Tribute Platform Heel Size 39 , 8 1/2 UsaChristial Louboutin Cork Slingback Stiletto Platform Pump 100% Authentic Rare!Jimmy Choo Snakeskin Ankle Strap Platform Sandal Size 38.5New Balenciaga Leather Platform Sandals Us-8 Eu-38 (5 Days Expedited Shipping)Pedro Garcia Black Studded Platform Wedges Heels Pump 37Christian Louboutin Aeronotoc Patent Lace Platform Booties Shoes Size 41 $1995Authentic Christian Louboutin Piton Cutout Suede/python PlatformCamilla Skovgaard Snow White Saw Wedge Hidden Platform Ankle Boots Nib 41/10Prada T-strap Double Geta-style Platform Satin Sandal $1100 Sz.8Nib Gee Wawa Daphne: Mary Jane D'orsay Platform Suede Black 7.5 8 Free People UoGuiseppe Zanotti 38.5 Suede Platform Peep-toe Amazing Shoes! With Dust Bags$1100 *givenchy* Cognac Fisherman/hurache Platform Wedge 38.5 Yves Saint Laurent Palais Platform Seude Pumps Size Us 9 (it 39 1/2)Jimmy Choo White Satin Platform Macy Sandals Sz 7 Excellent Cond. Wedding HeelsChristian Louboutin Sequin Bianca Platform HeelsNever Worn Christian Dior Platform Blue Satin Brown Snakeskin Bow Heel Shoe 40.5Jimmy Choo Black Gold Metallic Suede Strappy Platform Pumps Sz 36 6 In BoxVince Camuto 'sarika' Round Toe Platform Pump Ruby (wine) Patent Sz 11Coach Bristol Nib Platform Wedge Sandals Sz 6.5 Perfect For Summer!!! Christian Louboutin Daffodile Multi Print Platform Pump Size 8&1/2 Or 38&1/2Christian Louboutin Bianca Tortoise Turtle Platform Pump 39Miu Miu By Prada Shoes Red Suede Leather Strap Straw Woven Platform 37.5 / Us7.5Christian Louboutin Salsbourg Gold Strappy Platform High Heel Sandal Size 41Fendi Nude Beige Ankle Cuff Platform Side Zip High Heels Authentic MintJimmy Choo $1095 Leora Nubuck Platform Wedge Sandals 36.5Pierre Hardy Strappy Leather Color Block Wedge Platform Sandals Sz 40Stuart Weitzman 'platswoon' Black Leather Round Toe Platform Heel Size 8.5 Wide