Winters Past

20th Century Fashion from Deco to Disco

The History of Stilettos

I really like 1940’s shoes. Cute and very wearable, like these:

Enter the fifties: stilettos. Ouch! And, BTW, the dictionary definition of a stiletto is “a knife or dagger with a long slender blade and needle-like point, primarily intended as a stabbing weapon”.  Interesting image.

So why the dramatic shift from the rather more sensible shoe of the 40’s  to the dramatic heel of the 50’s?

A recent article in the Times says that, before the 50’s, high heels were mostly only seen in erotica.

 At the conclusion of World War II, this association led to the invention of the stiletto. The exceptionally thin heels depicted in wartime pinup art were made reality in the early 1950s and real-life women were encouraged to emulate those pinup ideals. Marilyn Monroe — alluring, playful and invariably stiletto shod — became one of the principal feminine archetypes of the period.


After the early 60’s stilettos fell out of favor for 20 years. Then the eighties (again, from the New York Times article):

Climbing the corporate ladder was perceived as socially risky — it could strip a woman of her desirability. High fashion offered an antidote: toweringly high “killer heels”.  By the early 2000s, designer heels were perceived as “power tools” to be used, like lingerie, by professional women to manipulate people through the “power” of sex appeal, an idea that continues to resonate to this day.

And now, thanks to Sex and the City, a whole generation of women know what Manolo Blahniks are.

Carrie Bradshaw in heels

Author: Winters Past

I am a vintage clothing shop owner living and working in rural north Florida. I believe in adding a little vinegar and molasses to my greens, having my coffee outside whenever possible, and mixing something vintage into every room and every outfit.

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