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

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

A pair of black patent high heeled shoes, with white straps and heels circa 1920.

Stage actress Eileen Sharp shows off her stocking-clad legs and mini-heels (roughly an inch tall).

A fashionable woman examining shoes made from various reptile skins at the Shoe and Leather Fair, in London circa 1931.

American actress Joan Crawford wearing a tailored dress and kneeling on a footstool. Check out those pumps circa 1932.

Patent leather ladies shoes with snakeskin trim, left, and plaited leather from 1945.

Actress Marilyn Monroe wears a bathing suit as she ties the strap around her foot in her high heeled shoe in 1949.

Austrian-born American film director Billy Wilder stands with actress and sex symbol Marilyn Monroe on location at 52nd Street during the filming of 'The Seve Year Itch.' The footage, though filmed, was not used in the finished film and was later re-shot in the studio. In this scene, a breeze from the subway grate fills Monroe's skirt, and the subsequent images are among the most emblematic of Monroe's career -- but let's not forget those gorgeous shoes!

An unusual pair of Chandelier heels, modelled at a Fashion Show at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London in 1957.

These 51CM high platform shoes offered by a Tokyo shoe company are made of cowhide and each weighs 4 KGs.        

Judy Garland in 'The Wizard of Oz' close up of her Ferragamo ruby slippers, 1939.

Judy Garland's infamous ruby slippers on display at Saks Fifth Avenue.    

    A poster for the movie 'High Heels' in 1991

Platform high heels took over in the early 90's. In this photo, Emily Hamilton poses on an oversized chair which sky-high platform heels.

Even the Queen loves a good white patent leather pump.

Notorious for wearing sky-high heels, Lady Gaga loves to wear heels that could make anyone cringe at the sight of them.

Minus the heel, it's all about keeping your balance in these sky-high heels. Obviously, Lady Gaga is a pro.        

This iconic red sole was made famous by Christian Louboutin and has since become one of the most iconic looks and soles.

High heels come in all shapes, colors and sizes. These bright blue shoes have a large, wide heel.

Beware of the spikes! These shoes can be a serious fashion hazard.

These heels are so thin we can't believe anyone can walk in them. They are called the 'toothpick' heel       

Probably the most memorable heel of them all, Cinderella made the glass slipper an icon!


"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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