Friday, June 18, 2010

Chopines - Platform Heels Renaissance Style

Chopines were platform shoes worn by women in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries.   They protected the shoes and dress from mud and street soil.   Chopines were usually put on with the help of two servants.  They caused an unstable and inelegant gait.  Women who wore them usually were accompanied by a servant or attendant upon whom they could balance themselves.

In Venice, the chopine was worn by women of the nobility and courtesans.  The chopine became a symbolic reference to the cultural and social standing of the wearer; the higher the chopine, the higher the status of the wearer.

 
17th Century Venetian Chopines
This high shoe allowed a woman to literally and figuratively tower over others.  During the Renaissance, they became a regular article of women's and became more and more loftier as the years went on.  Some were over 20 inches in height. 

Shakespeare joked about the extreme height of the chopines by using the word altitude in Hamlet when the prince greets a lady and notes how much "nearer to heaven" she had grown since he last saw her — "by the altitude of a chopine."


 Because of a few surviving chopines to this day, we know they are made of wood or cork and covered with leather, brocades, or jewel-embroidered velvet, sometimes to match the fabric of the gown worn.

With practice a woman could walk and even dance gracefully when donning a pair. 

The Italian word for chopines is "zoccoli" which comes from the Italian word "zocco," meaning a stump or a block of wood. 

 

 
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11 comments:

LindyLouMac said...

Oh what fun it would be to try some of those on.

Dina said...

love it they need to make a comeback....lol

Robin's Egg Bleu said...

And we think some of todays footwear is weird and ungainly!

Witch of Stitches said...

Reminds me of some of the platform shoes I wore in the 70s and danced in, LOL! At least these were functional - keeping one's feet out of the mud; not sure what my reasoning was!

Katja said...

Oh my goodness. Those look like absolute hell! 20 inches? That makes those Vivienne Westwood platforms that toppled Naomi Campbell seem positively tame ...

Jb said...

Crazy! Crazy then, crazy now! But it's so much fun to gawk at!

Are these like the shoes they talked about in Memoirs of a Geisha?

Audra said...

Horrifying and delightful! Thanks for the post -- and the Shakespeare hint. So fun!

greatoldthings said...

I was really shocked when I read the 20 inches!!! Oh my. Every day stilts.

Writer said...

Holy macaroni Batman!
One day, someone will be looking back at our era and wonder what the hell we were thinking...needles in the lips to make them fatter? Needle thin 5" heels? Slicing open breasts and inserting plastic bags filled with gel? Nothing new under the sun.

A Vintage Chic said...

SO interesting, Mirella! Have you ever seen "The Taming of the Shrew" with Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton? In the beginning, there's a fabulous example of chopines being worn by a very large courtesan...the film is wonderful!

Hope you're having a wonderful night--thanks again for all you share--I'm always excited to see when you've just posted!

Julie

Uneekdolldesigns said...

Love these shoes, how very interesting your blog is! :)