Elegant Couple in an Interior, 1678Eglon van der NeerPrivate Collection
Elegant Couple in an Interior, 1678
Eglon van der Neer
Private Collection

The Well-Heeled

Privilege and the High Heel

The status gained by wearing chopines was matched only by the loss of mobility. The invention of the high heel, sometime at the end of the 16th century, provided a more workable solution.

By the late 1590s, both men and women of wealth throughout Europe were quickly adopting this new style of shoe. Costly and impractical for hard labour, the new heels were consigned to upper-class use only.

For women, the style was combined with an increased interest in making the foot appear small and dainty. For men, the high heel had the added benefit of enabling the foot to be secured in the stirrup while horseback riding.
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