More Than Just an Accessory: The Story Behind the High Heel

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"Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world." Marilyn Monroe

The high-heeled shoe is often the last piece of an ensemble or the final detail to be added to an outfit, but this wardrobe staple has a long, long history! From the first "platform shoe" in the 1400's to "Shoe-Cam's" on E!'s Red Carpet, the high-heel has transformed from a measure of class and wealth, to a serious fashion statement.

A brief history...

In the late 16th century, Catherine de Medici (1519-1589) was set to marry the powerful Duke of Orleans, later the King of France, however, the 14-year-old wanted to be taller than all her guests (she was a mere five feet). Medici decided to wear two inch heels which made her taller than her soon to be husband and got the attention of all her guests. After her wedding, many guests approached Catherine about her shoes, asking for a pair of their own. From there, the heel was born!

The high heel was worn by both men and women until they were banned (yes, banned!) by Napoleon in 1791 in an attempt to show equality, but Marie Antoinette, being the rule breaker that she was, wore two-inch heels to her execution in 1793.

The heel saw a resurgence in the late 19th century with the invention of the sewing machine. It wasn't until the twentieth century that the high heel went mainstream and was available to all women.

French designer Christian Dior collaborated with shoe designer Roger Vivier, developing the Louis shoe with a narrow heel called a stiletto in 1950. Designer high heels really took off in the early nineties with high-profile shoe designers like Jimmy Choo and Emma Hope making the high heel more than just an accessory.

Now, the footwear industry is a $48 Billion industry. Women can't seem to get enough of the high heel.

Click through the gallery above to see the transformation of this dazzling footwear.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

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