Stiletto, a Made in Italy invention


An instrument and symbol, an art of seduction and elegance, the stiletto heel has been around for more than sixty years. Since its birth, exactly in 1953, it continues to dominate the fashion scene and occupy a privileged place in the hearts and wardrobes of women all over the world. However, perhaps not everyone knows that the stiletto heel was born in Italy! To be exact, in Vigevano, a town near Pavia.

It not only has a special place in a woman’s closet, but also in a museum. The International Museum of Vigevano footwear devotes special attention to this timeless feminine accessory. So far, the shoe with a stiletto heel has lead two lives, which is why even in the museum there are two sections: the stiletto heel in Italy, and particularly in Vigevano in the early 50s. At the same time, in the same city, its birth in the mechanical-footwear industry, which has had relevant importance for the diffusion of these shoes produced in the Belpaese. The first part refers to the period in the fifties and sixties of the last century. Immediately after the end of World War II, Christian Dior invented a “new look”, consisting of very feminine and sophisticated clothes, which were obviously in need of proper footwear. Therefore, the shoes were designed by the greatest designers of the time. An innovative thin and tall heels, which highlighted a problem of a practical nature: made out of wood, due to the small diameter, they could break easily. The footwear makers from Vigevano stepped up to solve the problem.

Then, at the XVI International Exhibition of Footwear of Vigevano in 1953, the hells with the top half made out of wood and an aluminum base plate were presented. Made in a more resistant material about 80 to 100 millimeters high, with a top lift 8 millimeters tall. The first prototype of this heel was exposed at the Vigevano Museum. A production that is both high level in quality and quantity. The footwear was then also launched by major companies, including l’Invitta by Re Marcello, Caimar-Cesare Martinoli, Brunis Barbavara, Waltea, i F.lli Pampuri, with the collaboration of the Bologna model maker Luciano Volta and the heel factories of Moline and Elite Legnano. The stiletto became so popular, that in the fifties and sixties the city produced up to 21 million pairs of shoes a year, many of them were high heels, and almost all to be exported: Vigevano become the world capital of footwear.

In those years, some Italian and French brands competed in the shoe sector making their own high heels.  In the second half of the 60s, however, the shoe with a stiletto heel went through a period of decline. A decline that lasted until the early eighties, when, thanks to the recovery of fashion trends encompassing the old principles of glamor, glitz and glamor of the early 60s came back to life. Heels up to 15 cm tall, decorative, with sleek lines, futuristic materials, everything came together to make the stiletto an object of desire for women and a fetish for men.

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