In the early 1900s, a woman’s ankle was usually hidden from view by a long, flowing skirt. When women wore what were known as high shoes or boots, their feet were doubly protected from prying eyes. Some boots of the period were laced through as many as 18 pairs of eyelets, while others were fastened with a dozen or more black glass buttons. No wardrobe malfunctions here.

Shoes and boots alike often rode on 2-to-3-inch Louis XV heels. Brown and gray suede was a popular material, as was kid leather, which was often stained in iridescent purple or splashy gold. Around the house, heeled satin slippers, with or without straps in the back, sometimes featured fur, fabric rosettes, or crystals on their vamps. Some of these early-20th-century shoes seem precursors to the mule, which would enjoy a huge resurgence after World War II.

As the short skirts of the flapper era in the 1920s took hold, shoemakers created footwear to show off the feet. Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, and other major department stores sold brocade or leather strapped pumps by Salvatore Ferragamo and other European designers. Red silk paired with gold leather was not uncommon, but the decade also had its share of sensible shoes, such as those made by Dr. Scholl’s.

As the stock market crash of 1929 gave way to the Great Depression, heels began to climb. High-heeled pumps and evening sandals were now common, secured to the feet with ankle or t-straps. Thanks to Ferragamo, wedge-soled shoes were embraced, as were shoes made of silk and velvet. Among the high-end retailers who sold pricey shoes during these tough economic times were Henri Bendel of New York and Geuting’s of Philadelphia.

World War II caused designers to consider non-traditional materials for their shoes. In Mussolini’s Italy, which was increasingly isolated from its traditional trading partners, Ferragamo had already turned to plentiful Sardinian cork, which he stacked in layers to create platform soles. Now, in the 1940s, 1-to-2-inch platforms were sandwiched under the toes of pumps, too, which allowed the heels in the back to be even higher.

Wood sandals joined felt wedges and lace-up, open-toe, sling-back alligator pumps in what was, despite the war, a crowded shoe field. Satin mules exuded a sultry film-noir-look, and after the war, mesh and leather oxfords, sometimes called Mamma shoes, were in high demand.

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    

Pr Shabby Antique C1920s Silk Satin Wedding Shoes * Embellished W Lace + FlowersVintage Usa Made Converse Womens Unbleached White All Star Hi Top 8us 6uk 39eurLadies Cesare Paciotti Black Red Pointed Toe Heel Boots 39/uk6 - 30 S64-rare- 1930's -saks Fifth Avenue- Vintage Embroidered/beadwork High Heel ShoesVintage Women 1970's Platform Shoes Very Cool Size 7 Vintage Usa Made Converse Womens Optical White All Star Low Top 7us 5uk 38 EurGogo Vtg Black Mesh Gladiator Boots Fishnet 60's 70's Greece Zip Knee High Tall Vintage Usa Made Converse 80s Navy Black Racing All Star Hi Chuck Taylors 6us 361930's -fenton/saks Fifth Avenue- Vintage Art Deco Black & White High Heel Shoes1930's -saks Fifth Avenue- Vintage Art Deco Red Silk T-strap High Heel ShoesVintage Women 1970's Platform Shoes Very Cool Size 7 Vintage 80's Usa Made Red Gray Plaid Wool All Star Low Chuck Taylor 7us WomensMichael Kors Damita Wedge 40s2dmms3d Navy Canvas Sz7.5 M Women'sVintage Usa Made Converse 80s Green Black Bowling All Star Lo Chuck Shoes 6us 36Vtg 40s 50s Kedettes Womens Vintage Blue Striped Tie Sandals ShoesVintage 1960's Knee High Lace Up Boho Granny Black Leather Boots Size 9Vintage Red Mexican Hand Tooled Wedge Shoes Sandals Size 7.5 7 1/2Brand New Women's White With Tan Lacoste Tennis Shoes Size 8.5 One Of A KindVintage 90s Lee Cooper Sailing Yellow Blue Flatform Beach Pool Sliders Sandals 6Vintage Victorian Era Womens Brown High Top Leather ShoesVintage 1930-40's - Oxford Granny ShoeWomen's Vintage Heels Jacqueline Red Size 8.5Vtg Women's Cowgirl Cowboy Western Southwestern Boots Alligator Crocodile 6 BMichael Kors Damita Wedge 40s6dmms1s Size 11m Us Nib Msrp $99.00Antique 1920's Era Shoes~silk/satin Covered Leather~copper Brown W/buckles60's New-vintage Ladies Folding Travel Slippers-pastel Beadwork On Blue-xl 9-10Antique Pair Of Ladies Button Lace Up Victorian Brown High Shoes No ReserveWomen's Vintage Heels Galaxies Kenny Size 8.5 Vintage 60's/70's Hawaiian Sandals 3 Pair Lot Kabuki Heel Women's 8 Slipper Vintage 50's Springolator Style Heels Black Suede Leather Slide Shoes Sz 8.5 1970s Vintage Frye Boots - Mens Size 8d - Womens 10 WideVintage 1970's Soft Spots Burgundy Leather Comfort Sandals Shoes Wedge Heels 8 MChristian Louboutin Vtg Black Opera Slippers Evening Velvet Swarovski Crystal 391920s Silver Leather T-strap Flapper Heels Vintage Antique As-isVintage Heels Alligator Brown Pumps 1940's Era Pair Leather Butterfly/ Plastic Mules By Beverly Feldman For Russell & BromleyVintage Tandems By Air Step Casual Shoes * 7.5 MedVintage Ladies Leather Boots_lace Up_very Used Item_last Time Listing!!!Vtg Hippopotamus Sandra Stilettos 3" Heels Black Leather Made In Brazil Size 8 MVintorian Child Shoes 1930'sVintage 60's Black Suede Mod 60's Pumps 3 1/2 Inch High Heels I. Miller Shoes Antique Vintage Old Leather Victorian Button Late 1800's Doll Baby Shoes Boots 3Vintage Converse Made In Usa Size 5**vintage ��** Asics Tiger White Red/blue Bl-01 *new* Shoes 8xk356 Womens Sz 6.5American Eagle Brown Oxford Shoe Heels Womens 10 Vintage 1940s Look Lace Up Vintage 1980s Rainbow Wedge Flip Flops, Unworn Xl 10 1/2Vtg 90s L.a.gear Metallic Gold Ballet Flat Tennis Shoes Ladies 10 New Vintage Boots 8