Stylish High Heels in the 1950s

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Stylish High Heels in the 1950s
The leg-lengthening properties of stilettos has made them an enduring choice for many women since the 1950s. (Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Stilettos ruled women's shoes in the 1950s, with none more stylish than a pair of Roger Vivier heels. Although the decade is remembered for the growth of ready-to-wear fashion, regular shoes were still often made with more care than today. They were not designed as throwaway purchases, but rather made to be reheeled and worn frequently. Many fans of vintage fashion buy 1950s shoes for quality, as well as for their distinctive styles. Stiletto means "little dagger," and all stiletto shoes had a metal pin running thorough the heel, to make them strong enough to walk on.

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Shape

High heels in the 1950s were mostly pumps. This unadorned slip-on style suited the simple, elegant shapes of women's clothing. Rounded toes were standard but winklepicker-style stilettos became available by the end of the decade. Winklepickers were originally men's pointed boots, but the long, sharp toe gained in popularity for women's heels as well. The late 1950s saw the popularity of slightly more practical kitten heels and metal tipped stilettos. Peep-toes also became fashionable and are the choice of many retro '50s clothing enthusiasts. The cute look and toe-cleavage is perfect for the modern-day retro pin-up girl.

Wearing

Stiletto heels in the '50s were usually around 3 to 6 inches, with some even higher. This made them a fairly impractical shoe, yet in keeping with the model housewife look of the decade, with its time-consuming and perfectly presented clothing and hair. However, stilettos also represented liberation and indulgence after the austerity of the '30s and '40s; they were a shoe that was about looks before practicality. The shape and height of stilettos emphasises leg length, so this made them the perfect, flattering heel to go with the full-circle and pencil skirts of the day.

Roger Vivier

Parisian Roger Vivier became the shoe designer of the 1950s after working on heels to complement Dior's new clothing, including the full '50s skirts and nipped-in waists. He started making shoes for Dior from 1953. Unattainable for most, owning a pair of Roger Vivier stilettos in the 1950s was the ultimate in stylish high heels.

Influence

Stilettos maintained popularity throughout the early '60s, as conservative women were slow to give them up in favour of either practical or futuristic styles. Since then, they have had many revivals and, like many '50s fashions, are remembered for their simple elegance. The 1980s popularised stilettos again, which went perfectly with the tight pencil skirts and structured waists of the decade. Criticised by some for representing an impractical, uncomfortable women's shoe, the glamour associated with the '50s stiletto still makes it a popular, dressed-up choice for others.

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