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    

Louboutin Rolando 36.5 6.5 Black Leather Hidden Platform Pump Heel Shoe Hly026Christian Louboutin Black Suede Rounded Toe Platform Stilettos Sz 41/11 Nr!Christian Louboutin Volpi 150 Popi Fabric Pink Platform Pump Sz 40 Us 10 Auth Christian Louboutin New Declic 120 Glitter Black Platform Heels Pumps 40Chanel Pumps Patent Leather Black Ivory Sz 36.5 Hidden Platform, Good Pre-ownedAuth Christian Louboutin Lady Clou Spike Open Toe Platform Grey Slingback 39L K Bennett Brand New Black Patent Andie Platform Shoes Size 42Authentic Christian Louboutin Black Patent Sexy Cut Out Strappy Platform Heel 40Authentic New W/box Louboutin Nude Patent Asteroid Spikes 160platform Pumps 39.5Gio Hel High Heeled Platform Leather Boots Made In Italy - Sz 12 $1395 Auth. Christian Louboutin Lady Peep Platforms Spiked Gray Felt HeelsKhloe Kardashian Yves Saint Laurent Ysl Black Platform Sandals Sz 37 UsedAuthentic Christian Louboutin Nude Wedge Catalou Studded Spike Platform Heel 40Chanel White Platform Open Toe Shoes 38 1/2 Like KnewValentino Rose-gold Leather, Open Toe Platform Stiletto W/ Bow Detail Sz 39/9 NrChristian Louboutin Suede And Python Back Platform Peep Toe Size 7 ½ Us Chanel Navy Blue Suede Leather & Wooden Platform Slingback Heels 36.5 New 6.5 6Christian Louboutin Never Worn Size 39 Black Leather Strappy Platform SandalAuthentic Ysl Yves Saint Laurent Red Patent Platform Tribute Sandals 38, 8Michael Kors AaranJimmy Choo Cosmic Platform Pumps Patent Nude Leather Shoes Sz 38 Us 7.5 $695Divine Christian Louboutin Black Grey Buckled Platform Boots 41 High Heel SexyChristian Louboutin Black Patent Platform Slingbacks Size 39.5 With Box/shoe BagUgg W Savoie Tall Knee High Platform Winter Women Boots Shoes Sz 8Jimmy Choo Cosmic Nude Patent Platform Pump Sz 42 Runs Small 1/2 SizePrada Black Leather Rounded Toe Platform Pump Sz 39/9 Nr!Authentic Black Anthracite Jimmy Choo Strappy Opentoe Platform Stiletto SandalsGucci Platform Beige Brown Patent Tile Pumps Size 38 ExcellentChristian Louboutin Zoulou Strappy Platform Sandal Shoes Size 40 100% Authentic Loriblu Black Leather Over The Knee Platform Boots Sz Eur 38 8 Paula Abdul Guiseppe Zanotti Lime Cork Bow 6.5 Inch Stiletto Platform Sandal Size 38/ Us 8New Gucci Black Patent Leather Ankle Strap Platform Sandals Sz 8 In BoxChristian Louboutin Daffodile Platform Pumps Size 37/7Christian Louboutin Platform Peeptoe Shoes, Size 38 Us 7Jimmy Choo Crown Platform Pumps Size 42 NwbTory Burch Black Patent Leather Side Zip Heel Platform Ankle Boot Gold Logo Sz 8Jeffrey Campbell "lita" White Glitter Lace Platform High Heels Barely Worn CleanChristian Louboutin Bandra 140 Ruched Suede Platform Sandal Heels 38 8 VioletNew In Box Sz.6 Ash Zipup Velcro Black Real Leather Platform Shoes $265Ysl Tribute Sandals High Heels Platform ShoesChristian Louboutin Toutenkaboucle Black Suede Strappy Platform Sandal Pumps 38Lime Green Christian Louboutin Suede Platform High Heel Shoes Size 38 / 7 1/2Prada Leopard-print Pony Skin Rounded Toe Platform Pump Sz 38.5/8.5 Nr!Jimmy Choo Cosmic Black Patent Platform Pumps Shoes 38.5 / 8 / 7.5 New Gucci Black Patent Leather Open Toe Ankle Strap Platform Sandals Sz8 In Box Christian Louboutin Black Leather Very Prive 120 Platform Peep Toe Pumps Sz 35/5New Prada Saffiano Leather Platform Pumps Nude 39/ 9Prada Platform High Heel Shoes/ Booties: Black Suede + Laces. Size Us7.5 Eur 38Chanel Patent & Black Leather Platform Sandals Size 39Lanvin Tan Leather Ankle Chain Strap Pointed Toe Platform Pumps Sz 41 11Chanel Platform ShoesJimmy Choo Navy Blue Suede Cork Platform Wedge Thong Sandal Eur 39 Sz 9Vintage Mens 70's 1970's Platform Shoes Boot Size 8.5 Leather Brown Great DetailTory Burch Black Leather Emblem 3.5" Chunky Heel Platforms Size 7mNew Karen Millen Black Leather Platform Buckle Detail Knee High Boots Uk 4 Eu 37Giuseppe Zanotti Pink Patent Peep-toe Platform Pumps Sz 6.5B.o.c. Born Concept 7.5 M 38.5 Brown Leather Platform Ankle Boots Heels BootiesChristian Louboutin Nib Black Suede Hidden Platform Lace Up Ankle Boot Shoe 39 9Nnt Missoni Taupe Patent Leather Ankle Boot Platform Pump W/spat Design Sz 41/11Gucci Womens High Heel Loafers Shoes Vintage Platforms 38.5