History of Shoes

Summary of History of Shoes
  • Sandals
  • Poulaines
  • Patttens
  • Winklepickers
  • Lionardo DaVinci and the High Heel

    When reading about shoes and their history, once you’ve gone beyond peasantry stock, women had more than one pair of shoes. And you can almost bet they wore new shoes for their weddings.

    In most historical portraits the shoes were hidden by skirts and trains, the information on their history is sketchy at best.

    Of interest to us, as we try to select our bridal wear, are shoes that date from the Medieval Era through Modern times.


    Sandals are mostly just a sole held on the foot by straps or thongs. These have gone in and out of fashion since pre-history.


    These are the shoes you see in Medieval paintings with very long toes. They are also called crackowes as they became popular in Krakow, Poland in the late 1300’s.

    Out-of-doors, pattens or sandal-like clogs were usually worn underneath.

    history of shoes painting courtesy wikipedia.com


    Pattens were overshoes, or clogs similar to sandals, worn under poulains. The soles were wood and held on by bands of cloth or leather.

    In Old French, pate means hoof or paw, which the pattens resembled. Due to muddy conditions, refuse, and chamber pot contents, the thin-soled shoes needed to be protected. Plus stone floors were also very cold to walk or stand on in winter.

    history of shoes photo courtesy wikipedia.com

    Where clogs had a solid wood sole, pattens touched the ground in only two or three places, creating less area to soil and less contact to transmit the cold. Ladies continued to wear pattens until the late 19th century, though they evolved into iron circles that were strapped on under the shoes.

    Dating back to 1379, the Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers of London still exists. Their church is still called St Margaret Pattens. An 18th century notice still asks ladies to remove their patterns upon entering the church. Another church still has a pegged board for the ladies to hang their pattens.

    Even with the advent of swept, paved streets, ladies hemlines still needed to be raised when out-of-doors.

    As late as the 1920’s, a patten maker was listed in the London Trade Directory. But 19th century rubber galoshes and paved sidewalks saw the demise of pattens.

    The High Heel

    As well as an aeronautical, civil, and military engineer, Leonardo DaVinci (1452-1519) is credited with inventing the high heel.

    When Catherine d’Medici married in 1533, she wore 2 inch heels to exaggerate her height. Catherine wore gold brocade robes, with precious stones in her bodice and hair, plus a gold crown.

    Mary Tudor (1553 to 1558) also adopted high heels. They stayed in vogue on into the 19th century.


    In the 1700’s, mules which are backless and close-toed evolved from the pattens, with varying heel heights. In ancient Rome, the senators wore a red shoe, called calceus mulleus from which the name ‘Mule’ may have derived.

    history of shoes courtesy wikipedia.com

    Opulent wealth was expressed as being “well-heeled”

    In 1793, Marie Antoinette wore two-inch heels to her beheading. In the wake of the French Revolution, heels become lower than at any time in the 18th century.

    In the early 1800’s, flat shoes and Grecian-style sandals become popular.

    history of shoes courtesy wikipedia.com

    By 1865, ladies' heel heights are less than two inches.


    In 1904, the pump, or court shoe, became popular. From the early 19th century through today, the British High Court Judges have worn a low cut flat slip-on shoe. It was of black patent leather and had a grossgrain bow on the toe.

    The heel can vary from 1 to 4 inches and are available in many colors.

    Stiletto Heels

    In 1955, stiletto heels and very pointed toes became the rage, thanks to a woman of Scottish descent, Marilyn Monroe.

    courtesy wikipedia.com

    The Kitten Heel

    In the late 1950’s, the kitten heel was introduced as an alternative for girls under 13. The stiletto was considered unseemly and too sexy. Also called trainer heels, they had a short, slender heel, less than 2 inches in height and with a slight curve to the heel. They are now classified as a stiletto, as their long, pointed toe and slender heel were found to have sex appeal.

    By 1960 older teens found them fashionable, then women adopted them as Audrey Hepburn popularized them. Since re-emerging in 2003, they are often found on a sandal.

    Breakfast at Tiffany’s poster courtesy wikipedia.com


    From the 1950’s, Winklepickers are an adaptation of Poulaines. In England, winkles are a small edible snail, eaten by picking the meat out with a pin or sharp pointed object. The shoe has long, sharp toe, combined with a stiletto heel.


    During the 1990’s, the slide evolved from the mule as the toe became open.

    Red Shoes

    The Red Shoes, a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, is about a girl who, when she puts on magical red shoes, cannot stop dancing.

    As mentioned under mules, the senators and other high officials of ancient Rome wore red shoes called calceus mulleus.

    Then there’s the Pope’s red velvet slippers, said to symbolize the blood of martyrs and the Pope’s submission to the ultimate authority of Jesus Christ.

    The Papal slippers were made by hand, using red satin, red silk and gold threads for the elaborate embroidery. The cross is of red rubies.

    history of shoes courtesy wikipedia.com

    Applying the psychology of colors, red is associated with energy and the emotions that stir the blood ~ anger, passion, and love.

    A red wedding dress, according to a traditonal rhyme at Scottish Bridal Wear Traditions, you’d rather be dead. But looking at samples of red wedding gowns, I just can’t get that feeling.

    This is a bride who wrote in to Sapphire and Sage about her circlet. Does she look unhappy in her red dress?

    Courtesy Sapphire and Sage Testimonials.

    history of shoes courtesy wikipedia.com

    Dorothy’s red shoes are now available, along with other styles from Fairy Dust Shoes. If the leprechaun’s do indeed make our shoes, the offerings from Fairy Dust Shoes proves it for ladies and girls.

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