Women from the Ankle Down – The Story of Shoes and How They Define Us combines fashion history with social history and tells the story of 20th century American footwear through some of the era’s most iconic shoes. From Dorothy’s ruby slippers over the femme fatale pinup pump to Nancy Sinatra’s boots and the Reebok Freestyle. From well-heeled suffragettes to the impact of the 1960s women’s liberation movement, the influence Hollywood had on shoe design to our current devotion to personal choice. Author Rachelle Bergstein shares the stories behind these historical moments, interweaving the design innovations with the evolution of modern women and the fashion that reflects – and has shaped – our changing lives.

The book also features designer mini bios and informational tidbits. Here are five to whet your appetite – did you know that:

  1. From the 14th to the 17th century women of superior rank and considerable means wore chopines, shoes with platform soles as high as 20 inches. They limited the wearer’s range of motion, and in extreme cases, required servants on either side for support.
  2. During the reign of Louis XIV only aristocratic men had the right to wear shoes with red heels – they were strictly reserved for the court.
  3. At age sixteen, Salvatore Ferragamo specialized in comfortable, period-appropriate cowboy boots for the big Hollywood movie studios.
  4. For a dance number in “Funny Face”, Ferragamo designed a pair of black suede slip-on loafers to go with Audrey Hepburn’s black turtleneck and stovepipe pants. At first the actress was hesitant to wear the white socks meant to go with the outfit because she didn’t want to draw attention to her long feet.
  5. Romance novelist Danielle Steel collects Louboutins and has over 6,000 pairs of the famous red soled shoes in her closet.

Do you have any baffling or remarkable footwear-related tidbits that you would like to share?

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