Style Tips

Flappers: Shoes that represented a new social order

The most striking aspect of shoes in the 1920s was the fact that they were visible. Floor-length skirts had long covered female footwear, but as hems began to rise, shoes got the spotlight. Flappers’ shoes were designed to accentuate the ankle: part of a woman had previously been considered rather racy. Flapper shoes were designed for all purposes and seasons, from lounging around the house, to dancing and even swimming.

At the beginning of the decade, daywear shoes took the form of pointed heels. Two inches high and fashioned into a ‘Louis’ design, these sturdy shoes meant business. Aesthetically, they were not dissimilar to today’s tango shoes. By the mid twenties, rubber was added to the sole and the toes were rounding out to differentiate themselves from the pointy Edwardian trend.

Perhaps the biggest staple of flapper shoes is the strap pump. Flapper style shoes were all about straps, with new variations on the strap pump arising throughout the decade. First came the single strap, then the double and finally the ‘Sally Pump T Strap’ that is  As time went on, the straps got thinner, gradually becoming dainty statements that revealed more than shoes ever had before.

The decade’s day shoes were characterised by their neutral tones. Designers often opted for shades of beige, black, grey and brown. These colors accentuated the form of the shoe itself and the foot of its owner. Strapped shoes were often black, working to silhouette the delicate design. Plain-colored shoes also highlighted the decorative, diamante buckles and buttons which were a la mode throughout the decade.

Dancing shoes, however, couldn’t be further from daytime designs. ‘Flashy’ was the buzzword, inspiring designers to create shoes that were silver, gold, velvet, beaded and embroidered. Women would try out the decade’s new dance moves in shoes decorated with zig-zags, flowers and swirls. The dance floor was experiencing some major changes in its music and moves, so needed some footwear to match. They needed to be practical, durable and a strong statement of intent.

Little by little, women were liberating themselves, so it makes sense that this sense of liberation was reflecting in the fashion of the period. After gaining the vote in 1920, it was clear that things were changing for women, politically and socially. When taking a brave step into a new political era, their shoes needed to be as bold as they were.