Stilettos: How These Desirable ‘Weapons’ Have Evolved Over Time

” A woman can carry a bag, but it is the shoe that carries a woman.”- Christian Louboutin.

A stiletto is more than a shoe for many; it is a piece of their personality that they can convey to the world. Since time immemorial, stilettos have been sought after by one and all—especially to make a sexy statement—as its heel forces wearers to walk on their toes, in turn elongating their frame and accentuating the curves of their body. Literally meaning a small, pointy dagger in Italian, a stiletto is a true weapon of mass destruction! We trace down the evolution of this genius beauty creation through time.

The 1940s
Parisian singer Mistinguett was pictured wearing stiletto shoes designed by André Perugia in 1948. There is no evidence that André was the inventor of the stiletto heel, but he was one of its first documented designers. The heel of the first stiletto was slim, about 3 to 4 inches tall, with a low ‘vamp’ ( the part that covers the toe).

stiletto evolutionMistinguett wearing stilettos in the 1940s

The 1950s
Stilettos, similar to the modern ones, were created by none other than Salvatore Ferragamo. The famed Italian footwear designer made his first pair for starlet Marilyn Monroe out of alligator skin for the movie, Some Like It Hot. Soon, his creations became a huge hit with celebrities, including Sophia Loren and Audrey Hepburn.

stiletto evolutionMarilyn Monroe in Ferragamo stilettos in the 1950s

In 1954, Italian designer Roger Vivier created stilettos to accompany clothes by French designer Christian Dior. The relationship was so successful that it lasted for three years. He substituted the heel from wood to reinforced steel and called it the new slim heel. This was about three inches tall.

stiletto evolutionTulle over satin stilettos by Roger Vivier for Christian Dior in 1954

The 1970s
Manolo Blahnik updated the modern stiletto shoe style in 1974, with his reworking of the heels and addition of a pointy toe. He called it the  ‘new’ stiletto heel and named it ‘Needle’. The shoes were embellished with an array of different materials such as  rhinestones, lace, fur, sequins and beads. Later on, Madonna would become a huge Blahnik fan.

stiletto evolutionThis pair was featured in the Sex and the City series in 2008

The 1980s
In 1986, Malaysian-born shoemaker Jimmy Choo set up a custom shop in London. Soon, his custom shoemaking art attracted an A-list clientele, one of them being Princess Diana of Wales.

stiletto evolutionPrincess Diana wearing Jimmy Choo stilettos in 1996

The 1990s
In 1991, Christian Louboutin saw his assistant painting her nails red and got the brilliant idea of painting the soles of his shoes China red. This style has become his signature and is sometimes associated with erotic fetishism.

stiletto evolution

The 2000s
Today, women are spoilt for choice in the shoe department. The stiletto heels have risen to heights unimaginable (barely walkable)—just ask Lady Gaga and her 10-inch stiletto shoes designed by Alexander McQueen. Gaga has also become a fan of the ‘claw’ heels she first used in her ‘Bad Romance’ music video, frequently spotted wearing them in and around the city.

stiletto evolutionLady Gaga in Alexander McQueen’s Armadillo ‘claw’ shoes at the 2010 MTV Music Awards

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