Posts Tagged ‘platform shoes’
By the early 1500’s fashions in Western Europe had developed to the extent that extreme trends abounded both in clothing and in shoe styles. The pointed-toe poulaines, with points sometimes reaching such lengths that the tips were tied to the wearer’s knees with a strap, were one such shoe form and the chopines, or platform shoe, was another. The sole of the chopine was extremely exaggerated in height and would raise the wearer in status and stature with platforms made from wood or cork.
The origin of chopines is somewhat disputed, with notions that it originated as a European trend through Venice, which was geographically more exposed to eastern influences (and much of the embellished forms of European dress between the 14th and 16th centuries arose from this exposure) or that it stemmed from the Iberian peninsula, where cork was abundant. Whichever may be the case, it is certain that Venetians adopted the chopine with much enthusiasm as can be seen in multiple art historical examples as well as surviving examples of the shoe.
Venetian women were known for their sophisticated and luxurious costume as Venice was a thriving center for a growing mercantile class that bridged the cultures of east and west through trade and commerce. Interestingly, not only did Venetian woman of the patrician class display the commercial riches of the time period but so did the Venetian courtesan, who in many ways held a unique position in society. Venetian courtesans established themselves in society as a class apart from other women but in a manner that often elevated them in their associations with the male elite: they were often educated and cultured and carried themselves in such a manner that would scarcely differentiate them from the nobility.
|Venetian noblewomen and their courtesan counterparts were often indistinguishable from one another in their costume, as evidenced by the well-known Carpaccio painting that identifies two Venetian women but leaves to the viewer to dispute whether they are women of the aristocratic class or courtesans. The discarded chopines in the painting may symbolize the ‘availability’ of the depicted women but in terms of their dress and their use of chopines, a definitive association cannot be made. What further remains a curiosity is the aspect and function of the chopines. They were a highly attenuated idea of a shoe and could not have been very comfortable, as often Venetian women would have to prop||
|themselves up against their servants to be able to walk. That the liberated courtesan would want to compromise her freedom of movement wearing chopines of 8 or 10 or even 20 inches hight (as seen in an example from the Museo Correr dei Veneziani) also seems odd. However, in history it is often the case that form, function and desirability of costume are at variance and we can only appreciate the oddities of caprice.|
*image: Vittore Carpaccio, Portrait of Two Venetian Women, c. 1490
*image: Twenty-inch Chopines, 16th century, Venetian, Museo Correr dei Veneziani
Tags: 14th Century, 15th century, 16th century, Carpaccio painting two venetian women, chopines, cork shoes, History of Renaissance Shoes, Italian Renaissance, platform shoes, pointed-toe poulaines, Renaissance Europe, Renaissance Fashion, Renaissance History, Renaissance Shoes, Venetian courtesans, venetian noblewomen, Venice Renaissance, wood shoes