Vintage Fashion: Ask Miss Vivian DuBois

by Crystal Cook

Dear Miss Vivian. The Queens tend to wear a lot of Patton leather pumps with our delivery outfits, but we would love some variety. What other 50s type shoes are appropriate for the time period and where can we find them?

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Oh, Kitten! With all due respect to the great general George S., and to the delicious actor George C. (whom ugly babies around the world resemble), it is in fact PATENT, not “Patton”, leather. Patent leather–invented in 1818–is leather that has been given a glossy, shiny finish through the application of a linseed-based lacquer or (in modern days) a plastic coating. And while Miss Vivan simply adores a shoe so reflective that a naughty beau might use it to ascertain the color of her foundation garments, in the 1950s patent leather was typically reserved for fancy evening dress, or for little girls’ shoes.

Ladies’ day shoes (an important distinction, as opposed to evening or “leisure” shoes) in the 1950s tended to be made of calfskin. The simple pump, with a 2-3” inch heel and a rounded, slightly pointed, or boxy toe was a very common silhouette. As “denim dungarees” and Capri pants grew in popularity, flats began to gain a foothold–pun intended, Kittens! Of course, no self-respecting bobby-soxer would be caught dead without a pair of penny loafers or saddle shoes (to be worn with pants, skirts or dresses).

Some of the shoes we tend to associate with the 1950s were really more what Miss Vivian considers “specialty items.” For example, stilettos with spindly heels and toes so pointy they could kill a roach in a corner were originally for “fast” girls, though eventually they found their way onto the feet of more sophisticated ladies, as street fashion so often does–and eventually, by the 1960s, into Everywoman’s closet. Platforms–a holdover from the 1940s–were more common in the early 1950s, but lived on, particularly in “play” shoes.

Now, Kittens: where to find these fabulous fashions for your feet? With devoted surfing, it is entirely possible to find the real thing on websites like eBay and Etsy, especially if you happen to be blessed with petite little paws. The drawback to authentic vintage footwear tends to be its durability, or heartbreaking lack thereof. At sixty plus years old, the leather and glue in these beauties are understandably fragile, and many’s the time that Miss Vivian has found joy turned to tragedy as a divine pair of vintage shoes has absolutely disintegrated around her feet upon wearing.

But chins up, Kittens; there are a number of lovely resources to satisfy your vintage shoe needs! Miss Vivian has been rewarded with several pairs of absolutely marvelous, faithful reproductions of vintage designs by Crown Vintage, sold (of all places) at Discount Shoe Warehouse. For the computer-savvy Kittens among you, there are fabulous websites like Rocket Originals and Remix Vintage Shoes. Oh–to die for! And for pure comfort when you’re on your feet all day, whether it be delivering casseroles or running your media empire, swing dance shoes  (check out Everything For Swing) can provide your tootsies with unparalleled comfort and authentic vintage design. What could be better?

So happy vintage dressing from head to toes, Kittens!

One Comment to “Vintage Fashion: Ask Miss Vivian DuBois”

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