Whether it’s an ankle-hiding, kid-leather boot with a Louis XV heel from the late-Victorian Era, or a thigh-high, skin-tight, Stephen Sprouse stiletto from the 1980s, women’s boots have always been about more than mere utility. They can symbolize control of the elements (a Wellington rain boot), seduction (the salacious, above-the-knee numbers designed by Giulio Coltellacci for Jane Fonda in “Barbarella”), or getting down to business (a no-nonsense pair of suedes by Anne Klein II).

For collectors of women’s boots, the lace- and button-up boots of the early 20th century suggest an era when getting dressed was far from a casual or impromptu affair. Some of these boots had a dozen or more pairs of eyelets for their laces, while the profusion of buttons on others made button hooks an essential tool for the well-heeled woman.

By the middle of the century, boots had shrugged off their Edwardian past in favor of more playful looks. Low fashion boots had mesh uppers to reveal the top of the foot, and even foul-weather boots with molded rubber soles were capped with fur trim.

But the real fun began in the 1960s, when women were offered everything from ankle boots in molded vinyl to white-heeled booties with fake-leopard uppers to chic cowboy boots in alligator, snakeskin, or elaborately tooled leather. Stocking boots were even embraced, evolving quickly into body boots, which was like wearing a pair of tights with leather soles.

Of course the 1960s are most famous for the go-go boot. Designer André Courrèges, produced a short white boot in 1964 that was copied by pretty much everyone. Roger Vivier was not one of the imitators. His Cristal boot from 1966 was outlined in black, with a revealing clear plastic window at the front and side to show off most of the foot and ankle.

By the 1970s, designers like Yves Saint Laurent were making knee-high walking boots with side zippers in hues that ranged from two-tone browns to black-and-gold. So-called “flower power” boots included stretch black-vinyl knee-highs with flowers up the front on two-inch heels.

And a London boutique from the 1960s called Granny Takes A Trip expanded into the States, spreading its hippie-Edwardian-paisley aesthetic to New York and Los Angeles. Even mains...

Meanwhile, in Australia, fleece-lined sheepskin boots called Uggs were gaining acceptance. Popularized by surfers looking for a quick way to warm their toes after hanging ten, the style caught on with U.S. women in the 1990s, when Pamela Anderson of the television show “Baywatch” took to wearing the leg-warming footwear between takes.

By then, boots were a favorite of footwear designers who are better known for their high heels. Malaysian-born designer Jimmy Choo crafted everything from thigh-high black-leather boots to ankle boots with names like George (four-inch heels supporting water-snake leather uppers), Erica (its carved heel measures four-and-a-half inches), and Chicago (a black patent-leather boot with a revealing V cutout on the side).

Acclaimed shoe designer Manolo Blahnik was also drawn to boots. His Cava featured ocelot-print goat fur trim, his snakeskin boot sported a square toe and cream-leather lining, and his provocative Cage boot seemed to be someone’s bondage fantasy, complete with four-and-a-half-inch heels.

Other designers who have chosen to stake their reputations on their boots include Stella McCartney, whose mesh, peep-toe booties are fun and flirty. Cynthia Vincent’s open-toe lace-ups are more Victorian in character (without the modesty, of course), Fendi’s black suede boots feature comfortable triangular heels, and Christian Louboutin’s Goya ankle boots have a tuxedo riffle on the vamp and lipstick-red soles.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

MyVintageVogue

MyVintageVogue

The history of 20th-century women’s fashion largely played out in the pages of magazines such as “Harper’s Ba… [read review or visit site]

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]

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

The Fashion Columbia Study Collection (FCSC) is the digital home of the Columbia College Chicago’s fashion archiv… [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]

1960s Fashion and Textiles

1960s Fashion and Textiles

Put on your go-go boots and check out this wavy, groovy tribute to 1960s fashion and textiles, courtesy of the Vict… [read review or visit site]

Vintage Fashion Guild

Vintage Fashion Guild

While primarily designed to steer buyers to online vintage clothing shops, this blog is chock full of interesting, … [read review or visit site]

Fashion-Era

Fashion-Era

Bursting at the seams with content, this site contains hundreds of pages of fashion and costume history, including … [read review or visit site]

The Antique Corset Gallery

The Antique Corset Gallery

Take a deep breath, and check out this sparse, simple, and beautifully designed site showcasing 250 years of corset… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Victorian Rare Dramatic Scarlet Silk Satin High Cut Away Lace Up BootsAntique Victorian White Kid Leather High Top Button Bridal Boots Wedding ShoesVintage 90s Mahogany Leather Buckled Riding Boots Sz 9 Vintage Original Air Wair Dr. Doc Martens 8-eye Black Boots England Uk 6 / Us 8 Rare Vintage Wrangler #4067 Womens 7.5 N Tall Leather Western Riding Boots Vintage Alpine Sorel Boots Women Size 10 Old School Winter 1980'sWomens Ariat Hacienda Vintage Carmel Leather BootsVtg Ll Bean Women Brown Leather Rubber Duck Maine Hunting Boots Sz 8 Made In UsaVtg Nine West Women Halloween Blk Leather Goth Pointy Kitten Heel Ankle Boots 10Antique Victorian Womans Leather Boots~buttons~costume Prop Beautiful PatinaVintage Shoe Company Usa Made Womens 7 M Brown Leather & Natural Canvas Boots !%Frye Melissa Button Boots Slate Glazed Vintage Leather Size 9 $368 RetailL.l. Bean Boots Womens 9 Tan/brown Great Condition Goretex Thinsulate VintageVtg Nine West Womens Blk Leather Chunky High Heel Platform Knee High Boots 8 HotWomens Timberland Boots Semi Vintage Tan/pink Size 10 MDr Martens Vintage Collection 1460 Black Boots Uk Size 8 8-eye Lace Up Antique Vintage Old Leather Victorian Button Up Early 1900's Shoes Or BootsWomens Vintage Dr. Martens Black Leather Grunge Steampunk Ankle Boots Size 8Vintage 90s Cutout Garden Leather Western Cowgirl Boots Sz 6.5 Womens Snow Winter Boots Vintage Sorel Canada Waterproof Fashion Boots Dingo Vintage Brown 8.5 M Women's Western BootsTaos Vintage Rust Brown Fringe Boots Fall 7 Tall Knee High Womens MoccasinsVintage Frye Boots - Womens Size 8Vintage Dexter Women's Western Boots Wth Heel Size 8 1/2 M Vintage Navy Charisma Riding Boots Made By Hermis In Greece Size 8bGoloboots Golo Boots Vintage Gogo Dancer Campus Camel Color Leather Sz7.5 Vintage Manolo Blahnik Sleek Black Leather Pointed Toe Knee High Boot Sz 40.5 Frye Celia X Stitch Grey Vintage Riding Boots Womens Size 10 M Used $400Frye Motorcycle Boots Women's Size 6 1/2 B Vintage Vintage Womens Code West Size 7.5d Rattlesnake Skin Western Boots & LeatherCharles David Vintage Black Croco Print Italian Leather Riding Boots Women 10 BVintage 80s Victorian Granny Boots Witch Black Lace Up Sz 10 Edwardian Costume MVintage Suede Leather Over The Knee Nine West Black Boots 7.5Vintage 80's Nine 9 West Black Leather Lace-up Victorian Steampunk Boots~size 9mVintage Size 4 Chandlers White Real Leather Cut-out Knee High Flat Cowboy BootsBlack Motorcycle Ankle Boots 9 Moto Free People Frye VintageVintage Frye Women's Ladies Tall Brown Tan Leather Boots Size 6-model 8k02326Antique Victorian Black Leather Lace Up Boots Sz. Us7 1/2Vintage Frye Boots Size 6.5Women's Vasque Vintage Hiking Boots Cowhide, Made In Italy, Sz 7 1/2Mossimo Vintage Brown Leather Motorcycle Harness Campus Work Boots Women 7.5Vtg Womens Justin Western Roper Leather Brown Boots Size 7.5 BVintage Genuine Leather Corso Como Bone White Buckle Motorcycle Boots Size 8Doc Martens Womens Us 5 Uk 3 Shiny Black Vinyl Dr. Martens Boots Euc VintageVintage 9 West Nine West "r-tille" Flat Pirate Maroon & Black Leather Boots Sz 8Nort Genuine Fur Vintage Flat Winter Boots Women 7.5 Us Mid-calfVintage 1970s Embroidered Women's Leather Boots 7.5 Campus Riding Frye StyleVintage Justin Roper, Granny Grunge, Steampunk Lace Up Leather BootsAntique Industrial Art Deco Adjustable Store Display Shoe/boot Stand Circa 1920Vintage Banana Republic Ankle Brown Leather Lace Up Boots Made In Italy Size 61990s Ann Taylor Brown Leather Lace Up Boots Size 5 1/2 M Vintage Made In ItalyVintage Women England Fashion Pointed Toe Flat Ankle Boots ShoesCoasters Womens Dress Boots Size 8.5 Ankle 1990's Vintage Fashion SportFrye Veronica Boots Chocolate Vintage Leather Brown Short Distressed Size 8.5Justin Vintage Women's Western Boots 6308 Size 91/2 PreownedVintage Womens Tall Brown Leather English Knee High Riding Boots Distressed 8.5 Vtg Dr.martens Shoes Boots Air Wair England Brown Exc Vtg 1980s 90s Boho Hippie Cuffed Slouch Flat Pirate Riding Knee Boots Sz 11Harley Davidson Black Leather Boots Size 9.5 Hd Flames Womens Vtg Motorcycle Vintage 1900's Edwardian High-top Black Leather Lace-up Boots 9