Friday, December 30, 2011

The Well Heeled

Madame de Pompadour, (1721-64) was the advisor and paramour of Louis XV and had tiny feet. She wore distinctive heels which were named after her. The heels were high and curved into a small base. The style became very popular among the courtiers. For a short time French courtesans (high class call girls) bound their feet to catch the attention of the king. This corresponded to a time when Europeans were strongly influenced but the styles of China and Japan. The Chinese movement in Europe was eventually replaced by gothic. The foot binding was less severe and practiced by grown women. The foot was made smaller and these women wore tight high heeled shoes. The distinctive walk was considered extremely attractive to the French and Italian men. The origins of modern ballet come from this period of history. Empress Elizabeth Petrovna (1741-1762) was the daughter of Peter the Great and Catherine I. She was a most powerful ruler, and some say a ruthless one too. However in her private quarters she always insisted on being attended by Arab boys dressed in ankle high boots with upturned toes and extravagant ribbon bows. Her successor Catherine .the Great.” was rather well known for entertaining rather bigger boys in her boudoire. Marie Antoinette (1755–93) was the Queen of France and married to Louis XVI. Unhappy, the queen surrounded herself with a dissolute clique and threw herself into a life of pleasure and extravagance. She had shoes for all her outfits and her servants would catalogue them to prevent the Queen from wearing the same pair. Since her highness would rarely, if ever, appear outside her palaces, the shoes were delicate works of art with no practical function. In October 1793 she was tried by a revolutionary tribunal and sentenced to death by guillotine. After the trial Marie Antoinette was taken to the "bathroom of the condemned" for the brief interval before her execution. She took time to prepare herself with care, in the spirit. and in the body and wore a white dress with black stockings and fine heeled shoes. It was usual for these condemned to death to wear a mourning dress by Marie Antoinette was an exception. The Prince of Wales (Edward VIII 1936) was a man with style much on his mind he popularised spectator shoes (or two tone shoes). These were popular in the US and were very much associated with the new music popular at the time, Jazz. Edward also broke with convention and wore suede shoes for semi-formal, town wear. Until this time suede shoes were considered the sign of a cad and bounder. Edward played golf and was of often photographed wearing his two tone brogues. These too became very popular and remain so to this day. When King George VI (1895-1952. Ruled 1936-1952). Suddenly found he had difficulty in walking up hill, his doctors diagnosed the problem as flat feet. Unfortunately the king's arches may have fallen but the man was suffering from severe intermittent claudication. The blood flow to his arteries was severely hampered due to his excessive smoking. The man poor suffered dreadful pains in his legs and died from lung cancer. The few times Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was ever seen in public not wearing high heels was on a visit to South Africa in 1946. One of her shoe heels broke and the Princess Elizabeth had to gave her walking shoes to complete the trip. Seeming the Queen to be was very dismissive of her mother's behaviour and reported to have remarked 'How typical of mummy...' Princess Diana did break a Royal tradition whereas the Queen has always dressed perfectly; she often did so without care for popular fashion. Her clothes throughout have basically remained modified, fifties fashion. The shoes represent the top of the range and are available in retail chains where they sell in the millions to the middle aged, middle class women in their millions. Diana, rather like the Queen Mother was a dedicated follower of fashion and carried a large, expensive wardrobe of designer clothing. She had shoes for all occasions from low heeled loafers to high heeled shoes in gold and silver. Jimmy Choo made shoes for Princess Diana and on the day of her death her shoe maker had an appointment to deliver handmade shoes. The Princess only wore higher heeled shoes after her divorce from the Prince, for the primary reason she was obliged to wear flat heels so as not to tower over the future king.

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