adidas tank top list vogue for vintage shoes
Collecting vintage has become an international pastime, but while sales of retro clothing are booming as never before, shoes have been largely overlooked. Until now.
In recent years, footwear designers have brought out collections inspired by masters of the past, and fashion icons such as Kate Moss have been photographed in vintage footwear, sparking frenzied interest in the originals.
In the early 2000s, Miu Miu produced a collection paying homage to Terry de Havilland’s Seventies’ platforms, leading to a resurrection of the shoe designer’s career.
Now, de Havilland’s gorgeous pop art python skin heels regularly sell for high prices at auction.
Original vintage shoes by top designers such as Roger Vivier, Beth Levine and Andre Perugia are also becoming sought after, hunted down by collectors from London to LA.
Cate Blanchett caused a stir when she was photographed at the Helpmann Awards in Australia wearing a fabulous pair of vintage limited edition Roger Vivier stilettos, studded with Swarovski crystals and valued at more than 5,000.
Yet vintage shoes are in general still cheap compared with other items of clothing: you can pick up a pair of Chanel shoes for a fraction of the price of a blouse or a belt.
There are still plenty of retro shoes available, many of them by iconic designers, for relatively little money.
I spotted three pairs of Roger Vivier stilettos in a North London thrift shop for 20 a pair.
So, if you’re fascinated by one offs with a history, now is the time to start ferreting out beautiful vintage shoes, which are are still often undervalued.
Here, I pick my top six iconic shoes, and look at what makes them so desirable:
Famed for the quality of his craftsmanship,
as well as for the extravagance of his designs, Salvatore Ferragamo imbued stilettos with his own brand of Italian glamour.
Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell show off their footwear in Some Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
His heels became synonymous with the sex appeal of La Dolce Vita for a whole generation of Hollywood stars such as Marilyn Monroe, who owned 40 pairs.
From 1956, stilettos became much higher after the Italians started to strengthen plastic heels by running an aluminium spigot down the shaft.
Perhaps the most famous pair of Ferragamos were the scarlet satin rhinestone studded stilettos that became fused into our collective consciousness after their starring role in the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
Unforgettably and inextricably linked with the stellar power of Monroe and the glamour of Fifties Hollywood, the original shoes sold at Christies in New York for $42,000 in 1999.
COLLECT BECAUSE: They’re beautifully made and offer an instant, authentic passport to the glamour of a golden Hollywood age.
EXPECT TO PAY: 10 a pair if you strike it lucky at a second hand shop otherwise 45 to 75.
This shoe captured the freedom of the early Sixties. Flat and square toed, it was designed by Roger Vivier to be worn with short skirts.
In 1965, Vivier designed a striking series of Pilgrim pumps, as they were called, to complement a collection of Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian inspired mini dresses. The shoe was so flattering, comfortable and easy to wear that everyone from duchesses to dolly birds immediately wanted at least one pair.
In one year alone, Vivier was said to have sold 200,000 pairs, with customers including Jackie Onassis, the Duchess of Windsor and Catherine Deneuve, who famously wore Pilgrim pumps in her 1967 film Belle De Jour.
Shoe designer Christian Louboutin says: ‘Vivier’s shoes spoke by themselves. He understood that a shoe has a bone structure and that has to be perfect. He covers his shoes with beautiful embroidery and embellishment, but underneath it all is a perfect plain pump with perfect proportions pure perfection.’
The Pilgrim pump went on to be the most imitated shoe shape of the decade and its simple silhouette was used as a blank canvas onto which many designers projected their own fantasies.
COLLECT BECAUSE: They were the defining shape of a decade by one of the all time great shoe designers, and they’re associated with the sophisticated chic of Sixties Paris. They’re still an untapped market, so can be picked up for reasonable prices.