The History of the Stiletto
The birth of the high heeled shoe as we would recognise it now (as opposed to platform shoes or other devices for keeping people of status out of the mud) is credited to Catherine de Medici in the sixteenth century. It is said that she wore a (rather conservative) two inch heel in order to live up to her status as Queen of France. This royal approval for high heels continued and reached its peak in the court of Louis XIV of France in the eighteenth century, with both men and women wearing heels only a little smaller than the king's. All of these heels, however, were generally broader than the classic high heel of modern times, and certainly wider than the stiletto.
The stiletto shoe arose from the former Louis heels, but it was a deliberate move to create a truly feminine and elegant shoe as part of the post-war revival of feminine styling. With a low-cut front and a heel modelled on a type of tapering dagger, the stiletto was designed to emphasise both elegance and sexuality. The design was first noted by the press in 1953; not long after this, news was published of the first establishments banning the shoe because of the damage caused by the concentrated pressure on the tiny heel.
Tides of Fashion
The stiletto dropped out of favour in the sixties and seventies as feminism and the peace movement influenced fashion. The style's revival in the 1980s and 1990s was partially a result of the conspicuous consumption of those decades, led by extravagant designers such as Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo and adopted by a range of celebrities. However, the new styles are not quite the same type of stiletto as the original 1950s model; changes in mass production mean that modern designers can no longer access the truly dagger-like slim heels that were once made, and heel heights have generally increased to give the illusion of this slenderness.
The classic stiletto was exemplified by the shoes made by Salvatore Ferragamo for Hollywood stars of the fifties and early sixties, including iconic pairs for Marilyn Monroe in several of her films. In modern times, the highly influential "Sex and the City", where the shoes and their designers are almost secondary characters, has increased the popularity of the style enormously.
Currently, most famous actresses and models appear on gala occasions in a pair of stunning stiletto heels to enhance their appearances. However, perhaps there is more to their sense of presence than simple physical factors. Lita Ford said: "Stiletto, I look at it more as an attitude as opposed to a high-heeled shoe", and this composure and confidence may well be what women are looking for when they choose to wear stilettos.
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