Tag Archives: geta

Evolution of the Platform Shoe

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We used to call these FM pumps (f**k me) because they weren’t meant to be walked in. Creative Commons: by extraitaly flickr phil sidek gallery.

I’ve been noticing the ultra high heels that are in fashion now; stiletto heels, with a platform front. Because I spent far too many years in four-inch heels or higher I now have to watch what I wear, though with smart shopping and choosing the time to wear my shoe I can get away with a heel if not quite that high. So, obviously the current fashion has decided women need to be uber tall or that they need to be uber sexy on super spiky heels but because many women would feel a little unbalanced, the platform has been added which takes down the overall height from your heel to your toe.

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The medieval shoe never had much of a heel, except for doubled layers of leather. From: feastgarb.tumblr.com

While the hyper sexualization of our society is partly to blame for everyone having to wear FM pumps now, these are not in fact the tallest shoes in history. The history of the platform shoe begins centuries ago. Japan of course had the geta or wooden sandals but if we look at Europe, there is a wealth of information there.

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This is a reproduction of the medieval shoe, with pattens. From: The Art Room Plant

To understand how a wood-based or platformed shoe came about one must  understand that early shoes throughout Europe were only made of leather. As the technology and understanding of patternmaking progressed shoes had firmer and thicker soles, usually made up of several pieces of thick leather and might also have been boiled leather, a process of penetrating the leather with liquid beeswax, which not only hardens the leather but also makes it waterproof. Remember that lanes and paths would only be of mother earth and slowly developed into wood planks and cobblestones. Even walking in Europe last year with rubber-soled shoes, I found some of those cobblestones rather hard to walk upon.

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The chopine, still made for a shoe or slipper to fit into it. From the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

No matter how well you waterproof something, if you’re walking through sucking mud and rain a lot your shoes are going to get ruined, and unlike people today, buying a new pair from a cobbler might be a year’s worth of spare change. People preserved their clothing and wore them out, often reusing parts in a new piece. One of the answers to uncomfortable cobblestones and mud was to use the patten. This was a wooden base that you slipped the leather shoe into. Shoes would eventually develop a heel made of wood.

Fashion always played  a part and as you can see by the red shoes, color and shape were important. The points of shoes got to ridiculous lengths and had to be gartered to the calf. And of course they rose to a silly height.

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Chopines of the Venetian bent. From the Bata shoe museum.

Enter the Renaissance, those crazy kids who loved color and men in tights and other fun stuff like Machiavelli. The Italians invented the chopines. They didn’t just look at the utilitarian aspects of keeping out of the mud; they looked at the prestige of being able to tower over your neighbor. Consider platforms that are 30 inches tall! Yes, one could show off their wealth by walking around on these mini stilts, with the help of two assistants.

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1940 platform shoes were modest. From: the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute

Sanity and shoe heights leveled out after that but the first 20th century platform was the peekaboo toe shoe of the 1940s (my favorite). This was a shoe with a heel and a modest platform of an inch at most. Of course the Renaissance was revisited in the 1970s with the blocky platform sandal and pretty much from there we have seen every evolution of the platform (platform sports shoes) since then. Except…no one has gone back to the towering heights of the chopine, probably because in this litigious society shoe companies would be sued out of existence.

Except maybe Alexander McQueen’s frightening horse hoof shoes. They’re insanely tall (though not quite 30 inches) and are the equivalent of monster trucks for people. I can’t say I’ve seen these catch on with anyone yet, and probably with good reason. Maybe next we’ll have pogo platforms. What fun those will be.

shoe, footwear, high heels, platform shoe, alexander mcqueen, fashion

The snake had indigestion. Possibly the ugliest platform in creation, Alexander McQueen’s creation.

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How to Wear Skirts and Man-Skirts

The art of wearing a skirt well is not as easy as tossing it on and just walking. In fact, different lengths have different issues.

SHORT SKIRTS

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Be careful of the Bermuda Triangle when you sit in a miniskirt. Creative Commons: Macleans.ca

A short, micro or miniskirt takes a certain degree of elegance if you want to maintain decorum and not look like a tart. Learn how to pick something up from the floor or a table without revealing all of your underpinnings. If you have to pick up something it’s best to bend at the knees and go straight down. Bending at the waist is sure to be revealing. Oh, and wearing underwear is an absolute must with short skirts. Make sure that if a chance unveiling happens that you are okay with what’s revealed, both in flesh and in material.

Some miniskirts are fairly form fitting. If you’re buying one, trying walking around in it first and see if it rides up or pouches at the belly. The other thing to check that not many of us think about is sitting in a skirt. The butt will widen and can cause constrictions or riding up. As well, there is that triangle of revelation between skirt and legs that can introduce any viewer at the same level or lower than you to an eyeful. Think Basic Instinct here. If your skirt is that short, you may have to cross your legs or place your hands or purse in a strategic position to keep the Bermuda Triangle hidden.

Short but full skirts are better at covering the Triangle but have the same problems for bending over. And of course, you have to watch the wind. A Marilyn moment in a short flouncy skirt is going to display more than your thighs. Many women now opt for dark tights with short skirts but that’s not always going to be a choice in the summer. You definitely don’t want to be lifting boxes in this length of skirt.

MID-LENGTH SKIRTS

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These midlength skirts are narrow enough you might need to hitch them to walk up stairs. Creative Commons Marc Jacobs

I consider any skirt from just above the knee to mid-calf to be a mid-length skirt. You don’t have to contend with displaying intimate details as you do with the short skirt but there are other issues. The tube or stovepipe skirt can be so tight that walking becomes an art. If you try to walk or stride you’ll either rip the material or fall over. Many of these skirts have an open slit in the back that facilitates walking, but you many still have to take delicate half-steps. Think of the kimono and how Japanese women mince along on the wooden sandals, called geta. To sit in a skirt this tight (if it is not stretchy material) means you might have to hike it up and you probably don’t want to cross your legs, even if there is room to do so. It would be quite constricting. If your skirt is particularly binding, you might find it difficult to bend your knees enough to mount the stairs. In this case you actually have to hitch your hip up to accommodate, or hike your skirt to give your knees room to bend.

A full skirt gives you ease of walking, but has other issues. If it’s really full it can tend to gather between your legs until you feel like you’re wearing a diaper, not to mention it doesn’t look that great. One way to deal with this is to gather a little bit in you hands to hold it out. The other is to wear a slip. Not only does this stop the transparent effects of the sun (or particular types of artificial lighting), but it will decrease the gathering of fabric. Slips are rarely as voluminous as a skirt, unless you’re dealing with the full circle where a full and ruffled slip is required to hold it out, which also stops it from going between the legs. And again, the fuller the skirt, the more you have to watch the wind, which really loves to play with fabric. The only thing with sitting that you have to watch with this length and style  is that it doesn’t end up with someone sitting on  part of it. Sometimes wearing a coat over top with a purse can cause a skirt to ride up. You might want to test that because it could show more than you’re anticipating.

FLOOR OR ANKLE-LENGTH SKIRTS

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This length might mean you have to develop the kick-step, depending on fabric and flow. Creative Commons: Michael Kors

Not all of these are evening gowns and I wear some ankle-length skirts from time to time. It’s rare to find fitted ones this long unless there is a slit, but a fishtail or tulip style may be fitted to the knees, then flare out. Again, you’ll probably have to practice walking elegantly. More common will be an A-line or fuller skirt. If the skirt actually touches the floor you’ll have to work out a kick-step that lets you kick the fabric out before stepping forward so you’re not tripping yourself. Going up stairs requires you to gather the fabric in a hand, but you might want to do this going down the stairs as well. Steps are strewn with garbage, or just wet, and a long skirt will trail behind. As well, anyone walking behind you might step on your skirt, resulting in tearing or worse, a fall.

Shoes and long skirts can make a dangerous combination. If you’re wearing heels, watch out. I’ve had my heel catch in the hem of a skirt that had slightly stretchy material and almost topple me down the stairs. If you’re on a chair with roller wheels, be careful that your skirt doesn’t get wound around the wheels. This has happened to me a few times.

MAN-SKIRTS OR KILTS

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Fashion gone wrong. Jean Paul Gaultier’s version of a manly man skirt.

Some men like to wear skirts and they’re not all gay. Others feel more comfortable calling these kilts, and the Utilikilt has gained great popularity amongst the male set. It’s a modern version made of heavyweight canvas and lacking the plaid of yesteryear’s kilt. Whether wearing a skirt or a kilt, men especially need to learn the art of wearing the skirt. Most of these are midlength so walking isn’t an issue but sitting can be a man’s undoing. Men often sit with their legs apart and if you happen to be going regimental (naked) beneath your kilt you better keep an eye on the capricious wind. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of sitting on the ground when I guy in a kilt came up and squatted in front of me. Ding dong, I saw far too much dangling. Guys, anyone at eye level and below can see a lot and it ain’t pretty. So, men, learn to either cross your ankles, close your knees, put your hands in your lap or use a pouch. That’s what the historical sporran was for besides storing valuables; it protected and hid the family jewels.

If you’re not sure how you’re going to look walking or sitting in any skirt or kilt, practice. Get a friend to give you hints but please, keep the treasures buried except for your special someone.

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