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 ChopinesThis 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.