10 Times the Platform Shoe Changed the World for Women

In its centuries-old history, the sky-high shoe has elevated, empowered, impeded and scandalized women. Though it had its origins in the chopines of 15th-century Venice, Italy, the geta of feudal Japan and ancient Greek theater, it is the past century where platforms — and the women who wore them — attained the most power.

1930s

The Great Depression may have plagued the decade, but it was also Hollywood’s golden era, and both the storylines and costumes had an over-the-top decadence to them. Ahead of the release of “The Wizard of Oz,” shoemaker Salvatore Ferragamo created his instantly iconic rainbow platform for Judy Garland. Meanwhile, Mae West’s double-decker platforms (right) matched her larger-than-life persona.

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Mae West in 1933.
CREDIT: Shutterstock
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Mae West’s double-decker platform shoes.
CREDIT: Courtesy FIDM

1940s

The platform continued its run as a shoe for the performer, gracing the feet of screen sirens such as Veronica Lake and Rita Hayworth. Portuguese-Brazilian singer, dancer and actress Carmen Miranda loved the style so much for her Carnival-inspired shows that she created her own line of platform shoes, which she debuted in London in 1948.

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Carmen Miranda posing in platform shoes in 1946.
CREDIT: Shutterstock
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Veronica Lake in 1942.
CREDIT: Shutterstock
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Rita Hayworth a sparkly platform sandal in the 1946 film “Gilda.”
CREDIT: Columbia/Kobal/Shutterstock

1950s

When the heels hit Marilyn Monroe’s feet, the shoe ventured into pinup territory — and instantly gained more sex symbolism. The clear Lucite style that the actress favored for her swimwear cover shots read as a predecessor to today’s “stripper shoe.”

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Marilyn Monroe in clear platforms in 1953.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Early 1970s

The swinging ’60s had aftershocks in the early ’70s, and London’s fashion scene happily embraced the style as a playful shoe for the freewheeling. Barbara Hulanicki’s iconic Biba store sold decadent platforms for the rock ’n’ roll jet-set crowd.

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A model in platform shoes, striped shorts from Biba and Mary Quant socks in 1972.
CREDIT: Shutterstock
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Yoko Ono in platform boots in 1973.
CREDIT: Shutterstock
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Women in hot pants and platforms in London, 1972.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Mid-1970s

As the sexual revolution overlapped with the women’s liberation movement, the shoe came to symbolize the power of the decade’s twin cultural phenomena. Platforms could be found at protests and discos alike as women found more of their social freedoms.

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Women marching at the White House in 1975 as part of demonstration in response to the National Organization for Women’s call for a nationwide strike. The women’s sign references the movie “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” a 1974 film that deals with women’s liberation.
CREDIT: Shutterstock
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Girls in platforms in Notting Hill, London, 1975.
CREDIT: Shutterstock
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Model Pat Cleveland in platforms at a Betsey Johnson runway show in 1974.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

1990s

Naomi Campbell was one of the decade’s supermodels, but she was still no match for Vivienne Westwood’s Super Elevated Gillie platforms in 1994. In 1997, fierce footwear and neofeminist “Girl Power” became instantly intertwined and influential for today’s millennials when the Spice Girls hit the scene.

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Naomi Campbell on the runway for Vivienne Westwood in the designer’s Super Elevated Gillie platforms in 1994.
CREDIT: Shutterstock
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The Spice Girls in 1997.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

2000s

Just before his death in 2010, Alexander McQueen debuted his Armadillo shoes for the spring ’10 season, iconic styles that Lady Gaga later bought at a Christie’s auction for $295,000. The wild style kicked off a platform revival, though the mass versions were deemed more party shoe than conceptual art.

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Alexander McQueen’s Armadillo platform at the designer’s spring 2010 show.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

2019

Though they were rarely visible, Lady Gaga was seldom without her platforms during awards season, where she grabbed a Golden Globe, a Grammy and an Oscar. Her favorite pair?
A custom 7-inch lace-up boot by Giuseppe Zanotti in both black suede and silver.

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Lady Gaga at the 2019 Golden Globes with Giuseppe Zanotti platform boots underneath her gown.
CREDIT: Shutterstock
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Lady Gaga at the Met Gala in her signature platforms.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Watch FN’s video below with Carrie Dragshaw on how to walk in heels.

Why the Platform Heel Will Be the Female Empowerment Shoe of the Fall

How Comfortable ‘Ugly’ Shoes Have Defined Women’s Empowerment Since the Days of ‘Working Girl’

See Lady Gaga’s Bold New Take on the Clear Shoe Trend

 

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