Women's Shoes in the 1900s

Mary Jane

Women's shoes in the 1900s reflect the changing political, social and economic changes of the century.

A History of Women's Shoes in the 1900s

At the beginning of the century, women were not allowed to show their ankles. Narrow, dainty feet were in fashion and women wore pointy toed boots during the day. Skirts were floor length and shoes were not a prominent part of any wardrobe. They laced up and buckled and came in dark colors only. The priority was function, not fashion.

1920s Shoes

In the 1920s, after women were granted the right to vote, hem lengths rose towards the knee and women's fashion became more daring. Since women's legs were bared and covered in flesh colored stockings, shoes became more important and decorative. The Mary Jane, a T-strapped shoe with a heel and buckle, became popular. Today, the Mary Jane is considered a classic. In addition to straps, shoes were decorated with buckles, bows and sequins.

1930s Shoes

In the 1930s, as the flapper phase was dying out, shoes continued to evolve. Women's fashion became more ladylike and women began to wear peep toe pumps, which showed just the tiniest bit of a woman's toenails. Peep toe shoes made a comeback in 2006.

The 1930s was also the decade in which the house of Ferragamo began designing shoes. This Italian shoemaker made its name with strong [[Platform Shoes|wedge heels]. Ferragamo is considered a top brand today and the company's bow front flats are considered a preppy classic.

1940s and 50s

By the 1940s, shows were chunkier and wedge heels were a standard. The thick, sturdy heels made walking easier and women felt a sense of freedom as fashion became less restricting. At the same time, however, Americans were rationing clothing items so functional shoes were also a result of the war. Perhaps to counter the sobering effects of war, women started to decorate their shoes with trinkets and bright colors.After the war, fashion got fun again. The shoes of the 1950s are best represented by stiletto heels for ladies and dress up and saddle shoes for teeny boppers. Shoes truly started to become a form of self expression.

60s and 70s Shoes for Women

Of course the 1960s was a time of exploration and self expression. Women abandoned stockings as a wardrobe staple and skirt lengths crept up to the thigh. In keeping with the many different political views, there were many different styles in fashion. Some women wore flat boots with skirts. Nancy Sinatra's song, "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'," popularized Go-Go boots. Others donned chunky mod heels with buckles in patent leather, bold colors and metallics. The 1970s were a time of dramatic changes and turmoil. The Feminist movement and the Civil Rights movement were underway. The country was preoccupied with the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal. Fashion, as a result, was extreme. The punk movement was influential, as were glam rockers like David Bowie and Elton John. At the same time, the hippie culture was popular too and Earth shoes and Birkenstocks were also in fashion. Many American women dressed conservatively in nondescript, low heeled pumps.

Another influence of the 1970s was the launch of Nike. Running became popular and brand name running shoes entered the market. Of course it was the 1980s that really popularized the logo sneaker.

80s and 90s Women's Shoes

Fashion in the 1980s is probably best associated with the then popular television series Dynasty. Glitz, glamour and shoulder pads were popular. Shoes had bows, bright colors and status symbols all over them. The preppy look was also popular in the 1980s, and women inserted shiny pennies in their oxblood loafers.

By the 1990s, fashion had calmed down a bit. The dotcom movement popularized casual Fridays at work and shoes followed suit. While many women were wearing flat, comfortable shoes, logos and brands were still popular. Women may have been in casual shoes, but those shoes were Hush Puppies, Gucci loafers and Prada Sport boots.


All of the women's shoes in the 1900s have come back this century. The 1900s had a lasting impact on fashion and its influences can be seen on footwear today.

Women's Shoes in the 1900s