With another fashion season comes yet another fashion transformation. Gone are the haughty heels of yesterday to be replaced with the fabulous flats of today, and maybe tomorrow. After years of derision we have finally decided that flat shoes are worth another look. However, looking is not the only thing customers are doing. They are also buying and wearing.
Not only are flats practical for everyday wear but they are now a hot button, high trend fashion necessity for all types of occasions. Today everywhere you go ladies are sporting flat shoes while leaving their heels to gather dust under the bed. Whether they are slip-on, straps, pumps or lace-ups there is a pair of flats to suit every mood. With a recent injection of creativity wearing flats no longer means feeling dowdy or inelegant. On the contrary, flats now mean flair with functionality, but what is the origin of flats and how have they developed over the years?
The well-to-do ladies of ancient Egypt wore flat sandals constructed from bejeweled papyrus leaves that gave their feet some flair.
Of course, the flat Roman sandal was very versatile and well known throughout the world. In medieval times the flat shoe transitioned into a long and pointy invention called “poulaines”. Something that was interesting about these was that the length of the sandal announced the wearer’s social status. The longer the sandals were, the greater the standing of the wearer. The common folk were under orders to wear poulaines of no more than 6 inches in length while knights and barons wore longer versions.
Pumps, or pompous, date back to the 1500s when it was largely the men who wore these comfy shoes. In fact, back then both men and women wore flat shoes.
Shoes for women with a specifically higher heel didn’t come into fashion until 1533 when the then Duke of Orleans, Henri dei Medici’s bride to be, Catherine, asked for an extra two inches to be added to her shoes for the wedding.
Ever since then the heels for men and women have become an accepted part of society. In France heels took a brief pause in 1789 when they became entwined with the image of aristocracy – which wasn’t too popular in that time of the French Revolution. For much of the following century the French stayed away from heels altogether, preferring to be seen in sandals or more practical boots.
It wasn’t until the late 19th century that found favour again amongst women. Since then the heels haven’t really gone away, although their flatter cousins have made the fashion news here and there over more recent decades. Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy and Kate Moss are some of the more recent, famous wearers of fabulous flats and now they are back in the spotlight as an essential component of every modern woman’s wardrobe.