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    

Vintage Made In Usa 80's Brick Red All Star Low Chuck Taylor Gym Shoes 8.5 6.5Antique Victorian Era Ladies High Top Shoes Grey Suede With MarcasiteVictorian Wedding Shoes Heels Blue Rhinestone Clips Wedding Party Antique Vtg1960's Herbert Levine Shoes Disco Gold Funky Art Decor Size 5 1/2Antique 19thc Indian Silk & Metallic Zardozi Embroidered Slipper Court ShoesVintage Converse Made In Usa Flint Khaki Womens All Star Hi 8.5 Us 40 EurMonochromatic Black Vintage Chuck Taylor Hi Top All Star Shoes 7 9 Us Uk 40 EurGenuine Chinese Foot Binding Shoes From The Late Qing Dynasty - Tiny Vamp !1940s Spectator Pumps / HeelsVintage 80's Usa Made Red Gray Plaid Wool All Star Hi Chuck Taylor 7us WomensVintage Nike Shoes 1981 Size 4.5 Olivia Oceania 1065 Orange Tag Original Box NosVintage 1940's 8 M Womens Red & White Inlaid Stars Black Western Cowboy BootsVintage 80's Red White Black Stripe All Star Low Chuck Taylor Shoes Usa 6.5 UsLevant 1960's Funky Hippy Disco Art Decor Shoes Size 5 Made In SpainVintage Antique Kid Leather Soft White Lace Up Boots Victorian Edwardian SmallVintage Shoes: 1930s/30s T-strap Silver Mary Janes With Cutouts. Size 7-8.Vtg 60s 70s Hippie Rainbow Striped Fuzzy Rubber Platform Slippers Sandals ShoesAntique Victorian High Top Ladies Lace Up Shoes Black Leather Vtg 70s Christian Vermonet Brown 'hole In Heel' Platform Clogs ~sz 40~us 8 1/2-9Vintage Leather Shoes-size 8b-40 Tweedies-danner's ShoesVintage 1940s 50s Platform Shoes Size 6-61/2 N? 80's Mora Spain Designed By Beverly Feldman White Leather Fringe Jacket ReadVintage 1950s Mandels Skyscraper High Heel Shoes Nice Brown Size 9m New Clean!Doc Martens Mary Janes Brown Uk 6 Us 8 Leather 1940s Or 1970s Vintage Black Suede Platform Shoes. Italy. 6.5 BAntique Shoe Mule Slide Party Dress Diva Vintage 1930s Pinup Bombshell Brown Vtg 90s Grunge Size 8 Skechers Platform Black Boots Chunky Heel Club Rave GothHarrods Low Heel Mary Janes - Size 41 (uk 7 / Us 9.5) - Made In ItalyWomen's Antique Victorian Webster School Shoe Black Leather Lace-up Shoes/bootsVintage Susan Bennis Warren Edwards Ladies Suede Boots Hand Made In Italy, 7 1/2Vintage Omnia'c Italian Roller Skate Leather Sandals Shoes Size 9 Women'sWomen's Vintage Reebok High Top Kicks Blue 1980s Original Classic Shoes Sz 9Vintage Yves Saint Laurent Brown Leather Tie Up Mary Jane Heel Sz 9 Narrow W/boxVintage Nokia Tan High Heel Rubber Rain Boots Euro 39 Us 9 Guc Maud Frizon Light Brown Snake Effect Leather Heels Size 38 Us 7Paradise Kittens - Teal Satin Heels - Vintage - Size 8aa With 4a Heel1960s Vtg Fanfare 3-3/8" Spike Heel Pumps Pointed Toe Yellow Mesh & Orange 7 NVtg 80s Granny Ankle Boots Gladiator 7 Purple Leather Victorian Kitten Heels WowAntique Pair Of Ladies Button Up Victorian Black High Shoes No ReserveVtg 90's Eastland Moc Toe Lace Up Ankle Boots Women's 8.5 Black Leather Usa Made70s Black Knee High Boots, Approx Size 7Vintage 60's Joseph Magnin Leather Cutout Flats Shoes Retro Hipster Mod Sz 6.5Vintage Shoe Clips For Clipping On Your Shoes For Some ReasonNew Reborn Baby Fashion Shoes Simulation Doll Leopard Shoes Bowknot Pink