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    

Ysl Mismatch Womens 38 / 37.5 Leather Tribute Platform Stilettos Shoes Italy AjzAuthentic Prada Black Leather Classic Platform Pumps Size 40 Us 10Christian Louboutin Black Suede Peep-toe Platform Pumps Sz 37/7 Nr!Christian Louboutin Black Leather Platform Pumps Size 40Saint Laurent Black Patent Leather Peep Toe Platform Pumps Size 37Black Leather Christian Louboutin Platform Pumps In Box Size 38 8 - Worn Once!Christian Louboutin Burgundy Eel Skin Platform Pumps Size 38.5Christian Louboutin Fringe Tina 160 Peep Toe Platform Boots 40 Red 157222Brunello Cucinelli Gray Multi 7 37 Ankle Strap Platform Sandal Shoe New $1695Valentino Garavani Rockstud T-strap Platform Sandals, Size 38Christian Louboutin Brown Leather Cutout Slingback Platform Pumps Size 36.5Ruthie Davis Multicolor Patent Leather Strappy Halle Platform Pumps Size 37 NewSacai Platform Wedge Thigh-high Boots Nwb Sz 39/9 Black Stretch Leather $1,355Jimmy Choo Pumps 37.5 7.5 Teal Green Blue Suede Nwot 4.5 Inch Heel PlatformPrada Black Suede Platform Ankle Booties Size 40Prada 0677 Womens Black Suede Platform Pointed Toe Ankle Boots Heels 10 Bhfo100% Authentic Christian Louboutin Black Leather Platform Pumps Sz 37.5 Us 7Christian Louboutin Black Leather Pointed Toe Platform Slingback Size 37.5 7.5Jimmy Choo Black Leather Biker Platform Ankle Boots Size 40Ysl Yves Saint Laurent Red Suede Platform Pumps Size 36Jimmy Choo New Nova Womens 38.5 Patent Leather Platform Slingback Shoes Italy Ic$1399 Authentic Runway Prada Golden Sequin Platform 38 1/2 Ankle Strap Shoes1940's Rose O'neil Rose Applique Platform HeelsMiu Miu Forest Green Suede Peep Toe Platform Pumps Size 40Giuseppe Zanotti New Sharon Womens 38.5 Snakeskin Platform Pumps Shoes Italy QwValentino Nude Rockstud Platform Pumps 37.5Authentic Giuseppe Zanotti Black Leather Platform Ankle Booties Size 38 Us 8New Pleaser Size 14 Black Leather Zip/lace-up Platform Thigh Boots,5” High HeelsYsl Yves Saint Laurent Navy Embossed Suede Platform Tribute Pumps Size 40Christian Louboutin Bianca Black Leather Platform Pumps Women's Size 38.5 MChristian Louboutin Dark Red Patent Leather Platform Mary Jane Wedges Size 37 7Louboutin 39.5 Leather Platform PumpsYves Saint Laurent Purple Leather Platform Tribute Sandals Size 37.5 7.5Gucci Brown Leather Open Toe Ankle Strap Platform Wedge Size 8Stella Mccartney Elyse Platform Boots Black 37 Original $1190Christian Louboutin Platform Sandals -size 37Christian Louboutin Auth Black Leather Platform Pump Shoe Heel 39 1/2 9Ruthie Davis 9130 Womens Jupiter Beige Platform Heels 38.5 Medium (b,m) BhfoUgg Australia Black Leather Platform Clog Tall Sheepskin Boots - 10Euc Dansko Taupe Tan Riley Platform Heeled Closed Toe Sandal Shoe Eur 39 8-9Womens Demonia Torment 804 Platform Knee Boots 8 Black Sz 9 +box Goth PunkYsl Saint Laurent Tribute 75 Black Leather Platform Sandals Size 39/8.5Christian Louboutin Pique Cire Leather Peep-toe Platform Ankle Booties 39 / 9Mermer Black Ankle Boots Platform High Heel Stiletto Zip Party Us13Giuseppe Zanotti Design Pony Hair Slingback Platform Sz 36 Made In Italy Saint Laurent Tribute Patent Leather Platform Sandals Sz 38Givenchy Shark Lock Platform Sandals Size 39.5, Us 9Christian Louboutin 38 Open Toe Platform Pump With StrapJohn Fluevog Shoes Purple Suede Gothic Curved Heel Platform Pump Size 10Miu Miu Peep Toe Platform Espadrille Flats Size: 38Demonia Swing 220 Platform Boots Womens Sz 11Pleaser 0503 Womens Fascinate Black Platform Boots Shoes 10 Medium (b,m) BhfoStuart Weitzman 'zealous' Ocean Blue Velour Metal Stud Platform Oxford Size 10 MChie Mihara "onar" Black Leather High Heel Platform Bootie Shoe Size 39.5 Eur$495 Brian Atwood Cassiane Metal Fringe Sparkle Platform Open Toe New Women 8 MBebe Stiletto Size 6 / 7 Jeffrey Campbell Feather Nasty Gal Heel Platform SandalChanel Black Quilted Leather Cap Toe Hidden Platform Pumps Heels Shoes Size 35Burberry Chelsea Burgundy Leather Wedge Platform Ankle Boots Booties Size 37 6.5Black Platform Vintage Candies Zip/lace BootsChristian Louboutin Platform Heels (snake Skin & Suede)