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    

Black Vintage Style Riding Campus Tall Knee Boots 8.5 M W/ Ruffles AnthropologieMinnetonka Fringe Suede Boots Vintage Hippie Purse 8.5 Anthropologie Vintage Womens Faux Suede Ankle Shoes Flat Punk Boots Size 8 CoffeeVintage Style Dark Distressed Leather Tall Knee Boots 8 M Campus AnthropologieVintage Frye Tall Leather Brown Boots 7.5 7 1/2 Retails $378Vintage Ll Bean Maine Hunting Shoe - Duck Boots Sz 8 Lm Made In Usa Rare 8-5eye Instock Dan Post Dp3544 Women's Vintage Bluebird Leather Western Boots 8 MRare Antique 1840's Early Victorian Side Lacing Dainty Ankle Boots Shoes LeatherSize 11 Womens Ankle Boots Battle Lace Up Flat Suede Vintage Coffee Shoes Punk Size 8 Vintage Womens Ankle Boots Battle Lace Up Flat Suede Coffee Shoes Punk Size 8 Womens Ankle Boots Battle Lace Up Flat Suede Bootie Shoes VintageBeautiful Pair Of Antique Vintage 1900's Victorian Edwardian Two Tone High BootsWomens 7.5 N Vtg Tall Distressed Tan Leather Lace Mid-calf Boots 70's Like FryeDexter Boots Vintage "twiggy" Boho/campus Usa Made Black Leather Sz8 VgcCrown Vintage Joie Womens Size 8.5 Brown Suede Fashion Ankle Boots No BoxVintage Kikit Boots "link" Ankle High/heels/zipup/brown Leather Vgc Sz7.5 BrazilVintage Womens Boots Size 9 Faux Suede Ankle Shoes Flat Punk Boots CoffeeVtg Frye Jenna Disc Short Biker Brown Distressed Leather Boots Sz 8.5 B ($358)Vtg Womens Frye 8710 Campus Riding Tall Boots Sz 8b Burgundy Leather UsaVintage John Fluevog Derby Swirl Leather Boots- Ddft - W 7 - M 5 - Grunge - 90sDoc Martens Vintage Black Boots Women's Size 6Vintage Womens Taos Knee High Sz9 Genuine Leather Moccasin BootsVintage Black Leather Lace Up Wingtip Granny Boots Sz 6-1/2 - 7 M EucBlondo Boots Campus Nubuck Shearling Hippie/vintage Style Sz9w Vgc CanadaVintage 70's Women's Campus Boho Riding Boots Tall Lace Up Steampunk Size 8 8.5Vintage Dexter Usa Made Womens 7 M Tall Leather Heels Fashion Riding Boots %#Vintage 90’s Etienne Aigner Toffee Leather Knee High Boots Sz 8.5 Vintage Made In Canada Blondo Women's Black Winter Riding Boots Size 7Antique Victorian Edwardian Ladies Button Up Shoes Boots Movie CostumeVintage 90s Grunge Black Chunky Sole Heel Tread Ankle Club Goth Boots 9.5True Vintage Huntress Boots Green Size 8.5Vintage Style Dark Distressed Leather Tall Knee Boots 8 M Campus AnthropologieAcme Boots Cowboy Vintage Western Riding Whiskey Bourbon Leather Sz7.5 Usa MadeWomen's Vintage Gucci Riding Boots Size 7.5 Black Suede/leatherVtg Dr. Doc Martens 10 Eyelet 'air Wair' Mid-calf Boot Us7 Eu38Women's Vintage Frye Boots Size 7.5Vintage Frye Campus Tall Boots, Cuffed Brown Leather 8515, Usa Made, Womens Sz 8Vintage Hippie 70's Taos Fringed Leather Mocassins Knee High Lace Up Boots * 6.5Vintage 1980's Etienne Aigner Brown Leather Riding Boots Size 8Enzo Angiolini Boots Go Go Dancer Campus Glove Fit Vintage Brick Red Sz7.5 EucLaredo Cowboy Riding Boots Vintage White Leather W/fringe Calf High Sz5.5 Gc Womens Vintage Laredo Brown Leather Cowboy Cowgirl Lace Up Ankle Boots 8.5 M UsaVtg Luna Rosa Pazzo Women Studded Brown Leather Pointy Toe Kitten Heel Boots 8.5Minnetonka Moccasin Womens 7.5 M Vtg White Leather Fringe Crepe Zip BootsWomens Vintage L.l. Bean Leather Maine Hunting Ankle Boots Made In Usa Sz. 8 Women's Vintage Kinney Mudcats Rain Boots, Snow Boots Gardening Boots Size 7Joyce California Boots Gogo Vintage Navy Blue Leather Boho/hippie Glovefit Sz8 Joyce California Boots Gogo Vintage Hippie Brown Leather Era 1960's Sz7.5 VgcWomen's Frye Melissa Button Boots Sz 7.5 Chocolate Vintage LeatherHandsome Pair Of Antique Edwardian Victorian Black Leather Button Up Shoes Prada Vintage Italian Leather Onyx Black Knee High Heel Fashion Boots Women 8.5Vtg Alpine Sorel Boots Women Size 10 Old School Winter 1980'sVtg 80s Brazil Victorian/granny/witchy Lace-up Leather Ankle Boots/booties-7 MNine West Vintage America Suede Ankle Boots, Size 8.5Ivory Leather Vintage 90s Made In Brazil Boots Sz 9.5 *Gucci Vintage Gray Leather Laced Comfy Boots Size 39m ItalyLadies Dress Cowboy Boots, Vintage Size 9Frye Vtg Woman's Us Size 6 B Heels Brown Stitched Western Boots UsaJcrew Boots Campus Chukka Retro Vintage Zipup/fitted All Leather Black Sz6.5 VgcVintage Black Leather Salvatore Ferragamo Knee Boots 9.5b