Whether you’re into flapper style, Hollywood elegance, war time fashion or rockabilly, there’s a great variety of amazing vintage shoes out there. Henriette Cohn has a guide on what styles to pick for each decade from the Twenties to the Fifties


The modern, young woman in the Twenties bobbed her hair and used make-up, which she applied in public. She was smoking, drinking, dating frequently, dancing all night long to jazz music and shocking conventional thinkers.

As the dresses and skirts became shorter during the Twenties, more attention was drawn to the feet, and shoes became an essential fashion accessory.

In this period shoes began to be mass-produced. A great influence was the Charleston, a dance that required a more secure-fitting shoe. The most common shoe styles of the period were the Mary Jane and the T-strap shoe. Luxury materials such as brocades, silk, satin and velvets were used and shoes were often decorated with bows, sequins and buckles.



The day-to-day life during the Great Depression was contrasted by the elegance of the movie stars on the silver screen. Hitler came to power in Germany, interest in Communism was rising in Europe, and the fashion was directly influenced by the downturn in the economy.

A variety of different styles of shoes was available, such as buckle shoes, slip-on styles and lace-up shoes. The Thirties saw the introduction of the peep-toe pumps which became very popular.



The Second World War, starting in September 1939 and going throughout the first half of the Forties, had a great impact on fashion. Many women started working and had to dress down. Shoes were chunkier and more functional. Lower-heeled pumps and Oxfords were popular styles, often in bright colours.

Designers were forced to be creative due to the restriction on leather, and the wood or cork soled “Wedgies” were standards. After the war, women quickly returned to wearing the beautiful shoe styles of pre-war times.


Fifties fashion was influenced by television and the birth of rock. For the first time a special teenage fashion emerged. Ballet flats – often worn with white socks – and saddle shoes were very popular amongst the youngsters, whilst the shoe fashion for older women was less comfortable.

Dior introduced the stiletto heel in 1952 and it became the trademark of the decade. Shoes were intended to match an outfit perfectly.

3 Responses

  1. Sarah

    Thank you for this great article. Some of the shoes presented in the photographs are wicked – the 20s and 30s are my fave !