Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Platform shoes were born in the 16th century as symbol of wealth

Impractically high heels, known as chopines, were worn by upper-class women in Italy and Spain during the late Renaissance era.
The higher the heel, the longer - and therefore more expensive - the dress needed to cover them, and the more servants needed to support the wearer.
The exhibition at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto features more than 60 pairs of rare shoes, the tallest of which is a pair of Venetian chopines measuring nearly 20 inches (50cm).
"Excessively high chopines in Italy offered the opportunity for more fabric to be displayed but it also offered the opportunity for servants to be displayed," said Elizabeth Semmelhack, the museum's senior curator.
"Women wearing excessively high chopines could not manage to walk without the assistance of at least two servants. In fact, the reason why men still offer women their arm today dates back to when women wore chopines and needed that little extra help to be able to go forward.
"We're lifting the skirts of these women and letting you see these accessories that link very closely to economics, gender and politics - not just high fashion."
While the Italian chopines were relatively plain, their Spanish equivalents were gaudier, Miss Semmelhack said. "Spanish chopines tend to be excessively decorated, very visible, very flashy - much more equivalent to a pair of Manolo Blahniks today."
Men briefly embraced heels in the 17th century, but the fashion did not last long, she added. "Except for horseback riding and a blip in the 1970s, heels have been a woman's accessory."

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