Friday, February 20, 2009

Shoes...A Short History Part 3

Last time we looked at the Middle Ages. Remember you can find this information and much more at .

Remember all that isolation in the Middle Ages? The independence? Well, times were changing. People started to discover one another. Feudal lords were gradually disappearing and new political powers rose. It was the era of discovery. Columbus discovered America and suddenly Spain was reaping the rewards. Merchants began to trade amongst each other introducing new textiles. There were political changes, industrial and commercial developments and an increase in wealth over all.


Slimmer shaped shoes eventually replaced the broad Duck’s Bill, most likely due to the fact that people got tired of waddling, first to a low cut style called escaffignins which were not quite so wide but puffed at the toes and then the heelless eschapins which were also slashed.

Right: St Lucy before the Judge.
1532. Lorenzo Lotto,
Oil on wood, Pinacoteca Civica, Iesi.

During the later half of the century, wealthy men started to wear shoes with tapered toes, keeping the ever popular slashing and pinking but with the added decoration of ribbon rosettes. And hello mule, welcome aboard!


Women basically wore the same type of shoes as the previous century with the added interest of a new crazy shoe fad that originated in Venice and quickly spread to the rest of Europe. Like the patten, the chopine was a type of over shoe with a raised platform sole meant to be worn over other shoes to give the wearer height. And similar to other shoe fashions, they fell pray to exaggeration whereas the soles got higher and higher until some were up to thirty inches. Walking on such tall shoes would be like walking on stilts except you had nothing to hold on to, but women wore them anyway requiring a maid or cane to help them walk. Oddly enough, the church approved of Chopines but for all the wrong reasons. Chopines impeded movement and movement was required for such sin producing activities such as dancing. And if you can’t move, you can’t dance. Everyone is happy (or at least the Church was.) But they were eventually outlawed in Venice after a number of women miscarried after falling off their shoes.During Elizabeth’s reign, high heels and pumps made their first appearance. The Italian pantofle and the Venetian heeled slipper replaced those pesky fat toed escaffignons so popular during the previous era.
Well there it is, the 1500's and what that period of history brought to us for footwear. It's funny how the footwear has played such an evident role in causing the church to be happy or sad...and we thought that the 21st Century was too illicit...perhaps not as much as we thought.
Check back with me next week when we look at the 1600's, I'm sure it will be an interesting time period as well I'm on the web at &
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