Saturday, January 10, 2009

Posh Shoes circa 16th Century

Until the end of the fifteenth century, centres of population were comparatively isolated from each other. Come the next century with improved trade and transport there was a greater sharing of cultures. Florence was the centre of the universe. The women of Florence began to wear platform shoes called chopines. Originating either in the east or some say Spain the chopines were worn by women to increase their height. Some were often 24 inches off the ground and ladies required to be escorted through the streets. This is when walking canes became fashionable and escorts would walk on their right hand side to protect the ladies from the passing carriages, leaving their right hand to draw a sword. The idea of the groom standing on the right side of their bride may have come from this time. The style was talked about all over Europe but may have only been worn by Venetian women. Shakespeare includes a mention in Hamlet and the style was laterally associated with depraved and dissolute women. These were eventually banned after many women reported miscarriages as a result of falling. Few portraits of ladies wearing chopines are available which has led McDowell to conclude this was a short-lived style. Venetian prostitutes used to wear the chopines the height they needed to stand out in the street. Another popular shoe was the patten, which consisted of a wooden block fitted to a delicate slipper, or hose, which was worn as overshoes to protect the foot and delicate tapestry from the dirt, covered streets. Patten probably is from the French word patte meaning paw. Contemporary medical reports described the changes in posture associated with wearing platforms. This was the beginning of medical interest in elevated footwear.

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