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    

Yves Saint Laurent Tribute Pink 8.5 38.5 Patent Tstrap Platform Sandal Shoe $895Roger Vivier Blue 8.5 38.5 Suede Zipper Espadrille Platform Flat Shoe $675 Valentino Black Nude 8.5 38.5 Floral Lace Platform Bow Sandal Shoe New $1045 Christian Louboutin Black Patent Leather Platform Pumps Size 39 9Yves Saint Laurent Patent Tribute 105 Platform Sandals 39.5 Burgundy 121933Christian Louboutin Beige Patent Leather Platform Pumps Size 39 9Christian Louboutin Recouzetta 160 Black Leather Platform Boot Heels Shoes Gucci Betty Sand L8 R8.5 Leather Round Toe Platform Pump Shoe New $520 MismateValentino Couture Bow Nude 9.5 39.5 Patent Ot Dorsay Platform Pump Shoe $745 Christian Louboutin Beige Patent Leather Platform Pumps Size 7.5Prada Metallic Gold L6 R7 Crystal Tstrap Platform Sandal Shoe New $720 MismateJimmy Choo Clue Orchid L8 R8.5 Snake Sling Platform Pump Shoe New $795 MismateNew Christian Louboutin Sz 39 Us Sz 9 Talitha 160 $559pp Platform Toe Poppy DafChanel Black Leather Ankle Strap Platform Slingbacks Heels Size 39 9Christian Louboutin Size 42/12 Black Satin Peep Toe PlatformYves Saint Laurent Tribute Black 8 38 Patent Tstrap Platform Sandal Shoe $895Christian Louboutin Highness Black Patent Leather Pump 160mm Platform 38.5 8.5 Christian Louboutin Escarpin Black Leather Platform Pumps Size 37 1/2 Vintage New Unworn Men's Melis Platform Disco Boots - Size 12 DDsquared2 Black Silver L8 R9 Woven Pointy Platform Oxford Shoe New $725 MismateYves Saint Laurent Leather Tribute 75 Platform Sandals 41 Cuoio 138931Prada New Mismatch 10.5 10 Wingtip Platform Oxford Mens Leather Shoes Italy AqbChristian Louboutin Black Suede Zipper Platform Roland Pumps Size 38 (7.5 Us)Gucci Black Suede Leather Open Toe Platform Pumps Heels Silver Horsebit 6.5Stella Mccartney Women's Beige 'elyse' Star Platform 36Auth Hermes Platform Oxford Black Creeper Size 35.5/5.5 Kelly Birkin Sandal ShoeGiuseppe Zanotti Women's Platform Peep-toe Platform Pump Size 9 MNew $1100 Prada Black Leather Silver Studded Platform Stacked Pumps 37.5 Us 7.5Sophia Webster Suki Gem Metallic Leather Platform Wedge Sandals Size 41.5Vtg Doc Dr Martens England Black Patent Leather 8 Eye Platform Wedge Boots Sz 9Giuseppe Zanotti Black Platform Sandal Size 5 1/2 36 Italy Open ToeMichael Michael Kors Damita Platform Wedge Sandal Natural 6.5m NibChristian Louboutin Black Leather New Platform Heels Size 38Alexander Mcqueen Navy Blue Leather Platform Sneakers Size 37.5 7.5Womens 6.5 7 37 Dansko Tasha Blue Leather Clog Sandals Slingback Platform ShoesTory Burch Beautiful Gray Suede Platform Wedge Lace Up Ankle Boots 7Christian Louboutin 38.5 Graffiti Peep Toe PlatformSaint Laurent Black Bow Wooden Platform Buckle Closure Sandal Size 37 7Toga Pulla Metal Chain Platform Sandal 7 Women Size 37 Brand New Rrp $500 !Jimmy Choo Black Suede Platform Stilettos Sandals Size 38 8$1350 Jimmy Choo 'taint' Crystal & Black Platform Sandal Size 39 Us. 8.5Valentino Rockstud Platform Suede Heels Sz 39.5 *as Is* Made In ItalyAuth Christian Louboutin 39 Daffodile 160 Heels Pump Black Kid Leather PlatformFrye Paige Wedge X Boots Distressed Lthr Tall Knee High Platform Brown 7m $ 398Prada Sport Black Ankle Strap Silver Tone Platform Wedge Sandals Size 35 5Pedro Garcia Platform Sandals Black Suede Size 36 Us 5.5-6 Msrp$495Arche Dark Purple Suede Zip Up Platform Wedge Heel Shoes Womens Eu 40 Us 9 Jimmy Choo Black Patent Platform Pumps Size 35Prada Men's Shoes, Tri-color Platform, Size 11Christian Louboutin Black Slingback Peep Toe Platform Sandals Size 40 1/2Dior Samourai Japanese Knot Platform SandalTory Burch Brown Woven Leather Straps Sandals Platform Wedges New Size 6mUgg Australia 1003360 Womens Zea Boots Platform Wedge Waterproof Chocolate NibOnlymaker Women's High Heel Newsprint Platform Pump, Size Us13Finsk Blue Suede Silver Leather Colorblock Double Platform Wedge Shoes 40Christian Louboutin Snakeskin Metallic Peep Toe Platform Pumps Size 38.5 8.5Nwob Gucci Gg Beige Monogram Logo Horesebit Peep Toe Platform Pumps/heels Sz 8.5Rachel Comey Wood Clog Sandal Platform Black/ Print 7$445.00stuart Weitzman Women's Black Platform Oxford Sw 88190 Size 7mBirkenstock Papillio By Birkenstock 'gizeh' Birko-flor Platform Flip Flop Sandal