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1940’s Shoes – The Ultimate Vintage Shopping Guide

July 6, 2011

As any vintage enthusiast knows, shoes of any period differ in so many ways, you may wish to discover the key styles before you go shopping for that all important 1940’s fashion item! Most women think of the classic Mary Jane style shoe, but there’s a wealth of interesting names that no vintage fashionista should go without knowing! I stumbled upon some insightful information from GlamourDaze and thought I would share.

Women’s shoes in the 1930’s and 1940’s were classified as oxfords, pumps, sandals,  and boots ( high shoes).

1940’s Oxfords were sturdy and desirable for general-purpose wear because they gave support to the arches and ankles. Military oxfords were especially popular and serviceable. Dress oxfords, commonly called ties, were used for formal occasions.

1940’s Pumps appeared lighter in weight and provided less support than oxfords: many were suitable for wear on dress occasions and for shorter periods of time.


1940’s Sandals could appear light or heavy and be worn for sports or evening, depending upon the styling and the materials.

Heels were incredibly popular among women through the 1930’s and 1940’s and had various names to indicate their height and shape and to describe the material they were made from. There were a myriad of styles such as military heels, which were low and broad, Cuban heels were medium in height and less broad than military heels while Continental heels were similar to Cubans but with a thinner heel. High Cuban or French had a higher heel than the more regular styles.
Some heels were made of leather and others of wood, but covered in leather (more common in the austere and minimalistic dress code days of the second world war ). A flat heel was very common, being the most practical, for home, school, or work.

The toes of women’s shoes in the 1940’s  were round or square, boxed or soft, open or closed. The type of shoe you wore made a big difference in how tall you looked or atleast how long your legs appeared. Shoes with broad instep straps made legs look shorter; low cut oxfords and pumps without ankle straps made legs look longer.

Shoe Fitting was an entire  science at the time, as were many aspects of a woman’s look.  The shoe fitting fluoroscope was a common fixture in shoe stores during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

A typical unit, comprised of a vertical wooden cabinet with an opening near the bottom into which the feet were placed. When you looked through one of the three viewing ports on the top of the cabinet (e.g., one for the child being fitted, one for the child’s parent, and the third for the shoe salesman or saleswoman), you would see a fluorescent image of the bones of the feet and the outline of the shoes. After the revelation of it’s potential dangers due to radiation exposure and the carcinogenic implications related with using the  machines, they were quietly phased out in the 50s.

The fluoroscope.

Fluoroscope Shoe-fitting Certificate

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Yikes! Can you imagine going shopping for shoes and getting a tumour instead? Thank goodness these archaic contraptions were laid to rest permanently!
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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Sugarcube permalink
    July 8, 2011 8:30 am

    Great information and history lesson. I love 30’s & 40’s style! They should defiantly bring back the foot certificate!

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Sugarcube permalink
    July 8, 2011 8:50 am

    Great History Lesson! I love 30’s & 40’s fashion!
    They should definitely bring the foot certificate back! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing

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