For Mother's Day, yesterday for those of us in North America, The Heiress and I ventured to Toronto to visit The Bata Shoe Museum. It's a smallish museum consisting of four floors of a variety of historical footwear and celebrity memorabilia. The fourth floor housed the most fascinating collection of chopines (pronouced sha-peen), popular during the 15th and 16th century.
Worn by women to protect their delicate shoes from mud and puddles, they became a symbol of wealth. They elevated women not only from the filth on the road but physically, as to appear 'above' their peers or those of lower status. They also allowed a woman to show off her wealth by requiring more luxurious fabric to lengthen her gowns accordingly. This pair is one of the more extreme examples and would require servants to hold up the lady wearing them whilst walking about.
This x-ray gives you an idea of what the construction is like.
I knew that footwear existed to protect fancy shoes but in all my reading and museum visits this was the first time I've seen such a thing. They immediately made the footwear seen on the runway or worn by Victoria Beckham seem a tad less bold! There were some other interesting displays which I'll post about in a couple of days.