Do you remember the ultra funky platform shoes that were all the rage in the 1970s?
After their use in Ancient Greece for raising the height of important characters in the Greek theatre and their similar use by high-born prostitutes or courtesans in Venice in the 16th Century, platform shoes are thought to have been worn in Europe in the 18th century to avoid the muck of urban streets.
During the Qing dynasty, aristocrat Manchu women wore a form of platform shoe similar to 16th century Venetian chopine.
Platform shoes enjoyed some popularity in the United States, Europe and the UK in the 1930s, 1940s, and very early 1950s, but not nearly to the extent of their popularity in the 1970s and 1980s.
When the biggest, and most prolonged, platform shoe fad in U.S. history began at least as early as 1970 (appearing in both advertisements and articles in 1970 issues of Seventeen magazine), and continued through the late-1980s though not in Europe or the UK where they had all but died out by 1979.
At the beginning of the fad, they were worn primarily by young women in their teens and twenties, and occasionally by younger girls, older women, and (particularly during the disco era) by young men, and although they did provide added height without nearly the discomfort of spike heels, they seem to have been worn primarily for the sake of attracting attention.
Many glam rock musicians wore platform shoes as part of their act.
While a wide variety of styles were popular during this period, including boots, espadrilles, oxfords, sneakers, and both dressy and casual sandals of all description, with soles made of wood, cork, or synthetic materials, the most popular style of the early 1970s was a simple quarter-strap sandal with light tan water buffalo-hide straps (which darkened with age), on a beige suede-wrapped cork wedge-heel platform sole.
These were originally introduced under the brand name, “Kork-Ease.”
Remember that 1920s encompasses a decade which is a long time in fashion, so there is not just one definitive look. At the beginning of the 20s, women were moving from their confined Edwardian corsets to rejecting them completely with their “dropped waist” dresses.
But by the end of the 1920s, the waist became popular again as women enjoyed their curves.
Take a look at these glamorous wedding dresses in France which were published on Les Modes (Paris) from between the 1920s and 1930s.
Anne Gunning outside the City Palace, Vogue, November 1956.
Norman Parkinson (1913 – 1990) was a celebrated English portrait and fashion photographer.
He always maintained he was a craftsman and not an artist.
From his early days as a photographer up to his death he remained one of the foremost British portrait and fashion photographers.
His work, following the lead of Martin Munkacsi at Harper’s Bazaar, revolutionised the world of British fashion photography in the 1940s by bringing his models from the rigid studio environment into a far more dynamic outdoor setting.
Audrey Hepburn, US Glamour, 1955.
Humour played a central role in many of his photographs which often included himself.
As well as magazine work he also created celebrated calendars featuring glamorous young women.
In the early 1920s, things changed rapidly, the 19th Amendment passed in 1920 giving women the right to vote.
Women began attending college. The Equal Rights Amendment was proposed by Alice Paul in 1923.
World War I was over and men wanted their jobs back.
Women, though, who had joined the workforce while the men were at war, had tasted the possibility of life beyond homemaking and weren’t ready to relinquish their jobs.
Prohibition was underway with the passing of the 18th Amendment in 1919 and speakeasies were plentiful if you knew where to look. Motion pictures got sound, color and talking sequences.
The Charleston’s popularity contributed to a nationwide dance craze. Every day, more women got behind the wheels of cars. And prosperity abounded.
All these factors—freedoms experienced from working outside the home, a push for equal rights, greater mobility, technological innovation and disposable income—exposed people to new places, ideas and ways of living.
Particularly for women, personal fulfilment and independence became priorities—a more modern, carefree spirit where anything seemed possible.
Delphine Atger, 1920s
The embodiment of that 1920s free spirit was the flapper, who was viewed disdainfully by an older generation as wild, boisterous and disgraceful.
While this older generation was clucking its tongue, the younger one was busy reinventing itself, and creating the flapper lifestyle we now know today.
It was an age when, in 1927, 10-year-old Mildred Unger danced the Charleston on the wing of an airplane in the air (see above).
What drove that carefree recklessness?
For the most authentic descriptions that not only define the flapper aesthetic, but also describe the lifestyle, we turn to flappers themselves.