The formal ideals of the late 1800s – social ideals of plain living, hard work and religion were discarded and people, especially young women, enjoyed this newfound freedom and embraced individuality and personal choice.
In the 1920s, the term flapper, although not derogatory referred to women who chose to reject the norms of the Victorian era and their appearance defiantly heralded a new social order – a freedom in behavior and appearance which suggested questionable morals – something far, far removed from the strict rules and de-sexualisation of the Victorian woman.
The 1920s women had won the vote, they danced, drove cars, smoked and their clothes, although loose and body skimming was eye-catching and luxurious – design to attract rather than repel!
This new found ‘personal choice’ in behavior and beliefs clearly extended to their fashion ideals and a new demand for outfits and shoes for different occasions – and roles. Shoes were chosen not only to match a specific clothing style but also for the season too; and the 1920s woman, regardless of her class, went mad for shoes!
She demanded designers create indoor shoes, outdoor walking shoes, dancing shoes, sporting shoes and even swimming shoes!
This demand for shoes, in new styles, every season made custom fit ordering a thing of the past and ready made, standard sizes became popular. A well dressed, fashionable lady in the 1920s no longer had to wait weeks for a last and fit shoe to be prepared – she could pick up ready to buy shoes in a range of styles and for a range of purposes from her local clothing store or mail order catalogue. The excessive demand for shoes meant that dressmakers often became shoe-designers or even makers too and the mass production of affordable, yet fashionable, shoes for women on all social scales begun.
By 1924 the most popular style of women’s shoe in Britain was the bar shoe, a simple design that involved a strap across the instep, fastened with a single button. Various versions existed and included styles for daywear, sportswear and eveningwear. The Strap Pump or as it is best known today, the Mary Jane, were commonly designed with double straps, often crossed or with simple, straight shapes. The most iconic, however, was the Sally Pump T-strap or T-bar (British) with a strap coming from the toe to the vamp creating a “T”. All straps were thin and got thinner as the decade progressed. Cutouts in the straps and eventually in the shoe body gave them an even more delicate feel and a ribbon was even used, looped through eyelets on the side and tied in a bow at the centre – pretty, decadent and alluring these shoes were a far cry from the sturdy, practical lace ups and boots of the Victorian/Edwardian era.