Friday, 5 June 2015

Shoes Shoes Shoes

Shoes: Pleasure and Pain the V&A exhibition opens on 13 June so we thought this would be an appropriate time to talk shoes!

Be honest!! What girl doesn't love a fab pair of shoes?? They can make or break an outfit and they are probably the only piece of clothing that you put on knowing that they are going to cause excruciating pain by the end of the evening - yet still you wear them!!! Why?? Because they are fabulous, of course!!

Shoes have always been a woman's passion and over the past 50 years or so they haven't really changed too much. You might think that today's shoe choice is vast and you would be right. But weird, whacky and wonderful footwear has been around for years.

What has changed is our attitude to the clothes and the footwear we all have in our wardrobes.  The vintage shops of tomorrow will likely be full of poorly made items, churned out for the mass market and disposed of as soon as a button is missing!! 

In days gone by the clothes and shoes were cared for and did not have the 'disposable' quality of today's items.  Some crazily gorgeous brands are bringing back a sense of durability and we love them for it!!! Irregular Choice to name just one - we love you!

Many shoes of the 1940s and 1950s were made of skin. The onset of WW11 necessitated restriction in the use of materials used in the war effort, such as leather; instead alternatives were found. Snake and croc were widely available and even today these products will mostly remain in good condition. Look for raised scales - the smoother the feel the better the condition. 

The 1940s saw the introduction of the stiletto and in the 1950s the race to produce the narrowest heel really took off. Roger Vivier takes the (disputed!) credit for the stiletto heel that he designed to accompany creations from the fashion house of Dior, for whom he worked.  It is called the stiletto after a thin Italian dagger and some attribute it's introduction to the Italian shoe designer Ferragamo. In reality, I don't think anyone really knows who designed the stiletto.
Amazing Herbert Levine's

Another renowned shoe designer of the 1950s was the American Herbert Levine. Levine created some amazing shoes - some with wooden and gilt platforms, some that stuck to the wearers stockings and, even more decadent, - shoes covered in money!! 

Buying vintage shoes is definitely fun and you can pick up some shoes in really amazing condition.  Some of this is 'deadstock' and is often in smaller sizes (it is just like buying shoes in the sale) - the ones left over are sometimes very small!! But if you do find a pair in your size, they may well have been reheeled or tipped. Another reminder of things being made to last.
A 1940s shoe with cutwork detail

The further back in shoe history you go, the harder it will be to repair any heels that need re-tipping. The heel tips were usually secured by what looks like a very large nail. A traditional 'old school' cobbler should be able to remove this pin and reheel.

Vintage shoes are always worth looking at and like all truly amazing vintage pieces, with care they are an investment. If you happen to stumble upon a vintage pair of Levine's, Vivier's or Ferragamo's then snap them up! In fact, if you pop into Lily & Violet Vintage over the next few days, we might be able to help with the Levine's or Ferragamo's......

Mary & Lisa x 

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