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 Black Leather Almond Toe Platform Pumps Size 40Christian Louboutin Rolando Black Patent Hidden Platform Pump Us Size 10/eur 40Christian Louboutin Tan Leather Round Toe Platform Pumps Size 39Authentic Christian Louboutin Black Wedge Catalou Studded Spike Platform Heel 40Christian Louboutin Nude Vendome Patent Leather Platform Pumps Size 37.5Authentic Christian Louboutin Nude Wedge Catalou Studded Spike Platform Heel 40New Authentic Saint Laurent Ysl Debbie Peep Toe Slingback Platform Pump 37 TaupePrada Leopard-print Calf Hair Platform Sandals $950 Size 38Christian Louboutin Nude Patent Leather Pigalle Plato 120 Mm Platform Pump 38Iconic Alaia Paris Black Suede Gold Riveted Studded Platform Sandals Shoes 37 NrAuthentic Christian Louboutin Black Patent Sexy Cut Out Strappy Platform Heel 40Sam Edelman "kayla" Black Suede Leather Over The Knee Platform Boots Size 7.5mChristian Louboutin Aborina Suede Twist-front Platform Pumps Size 37.5/38Christian Louboutin Hernani Tan Platform Sandals Size 38.5Authentic New W/box Louboutin Nude Patent Asteroid Spikes 160platform Pumps 39.5New Jimmy Choo Patent Leather Pointed Platform Pumps Sz 36.5 6.5 In DustbagChanel Pumps - Black Platform Heels With Patent Leather Toe Size 38Tory Burch Black Leather Chain Trim Back Zip Lysa Platform Booties Pumps Sz 7.5Christian Louboutin Painted Python Masai Daffodile 160 Platform Pumps 39.5 9.5Christian Louboutin Silver Metallic Leather Spiked Platform Boots Sz 40.5 10.5Rare Alaia Paris Famous Black Grey Leopard Ponyskin Platform Booties Shoes 36.5Ysl Tribute Sandals High Heels Platform ShoesChristian Louboutin Black Leather Peep Toe Wooden Heel Platform Pumps Sz 41 11Charlotte Olympia Dolly Purple Suede Golden Platform Puttin On The Glitz Size38Prada Black Patent Leather Strappy Platform Sandals $890 Size 37.5Auth Christian Louboutin Black Very Prive Stud Spike Peep Toe Platform Heel 40Tory Burch Made In Brazil Womens Us 8.5 Eu39.5 Black Platform Wedge Heels ShoesSold-out Runway Stella Mccartney Platform Britt Oxford Black Shoes Nib 37 7 1/2 Authentic Christian Louboutin Nude Black Lace Platform Peep Toe Heels Shoes 40.5Christian Louboutin Black Platforms Heels Shoes Size 38.5 Us 8.5 MChristian Dior Miss Dior Platform Peeptoe PumpsKork Ease Platform Ankle Booties Boots Gray 39/8Prada Pink Peep Toe Platform Pumps Heels Size Eu 38 Us 8 Excellent ConditionBlack Christian Louboutin Toutenkaboucle 150 Strappy Platform (lightly Used)Jimmy Choo Crown Platform Pumps Size 42Valentino Satin Jeweled Bow D'orsay Platform Pumps Size 9.5 Tan/nude Heel HeelsChristian Louboutin Lady Daf 160 Veau Velours Platform Mary Jane PumpNew $975 Giuseppe Zanotti Design Blue Suede Bow Platform Stilleto Heel 7.5 8 8.5New Tory Burch Black Leather Knee High Platform Boots Size 9Black Sandals Gold Studded Platform High Heel Pumps Women Glitter Mirror Heels SChanel Espadrilles Canvas Platform Beige Black Flats Cc Logo Captoe 36Chanel Escarpins Black Cap Toe Platform Pumps, Sz 38, 8, Box, Dustbag, Worn OnceNib Yves Saint Laurent Navy Blue Tan Denim Tribute Platform Sandals Sz 40 10Christian Louboutin Rare *hot* Gold Foxtrot 5" Platform Slingbacks Size 38Nwt $2500 Dolce & Gabbana Python Snakeskin Platform Open Toe Shoes Eu39 / Us8.5Christian Louboutin Platform Peeptoe Shoes, Size 38 Us 7New Sz 7 / 37 Brian Atwood Nude Patent Leather Maniac Platform Pump Shoes Christian Louboutin Very Prive Black Leather Red Sole Platform Pump Shoe Sz 38Ysl - Tribute Heel PlatformNew Christian Louboutin Multicolored Floral Slides Platform Pumps Sz 41.5 11.5Tory Burch Beige Patent Leather Logo Platform Wedge Slides Sandals Shoes Sz 6mUgg Australia Size 9 Platform Wedge Tall Leather/textile Black Boots Michael Kors York Platform Pumps: Black Suede Size 9Christian Louboutin Shoes Black Studs On Black Patent Platform Pumps Size 37Giuseppe Zanotti Platform PumpsHigh Jimmy Choo Wedges Platforms, Black Suede 39Christian Louboutin Black Leather Platform Heel Pump Shoe Sz 37.5 7.5Robert Clergerie Black Suede Platform Bootie Size 8 1/2 Gucci Platform Beige Brown Patent Tile Pumps Size 38 ExcellentYsl Yves Saint Laurent Brown Leather Tribtoo Platform Booties Heels Shoes 37 7 M