Fickle Fashions

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"Woman trying on shoes." Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection via Digital Commonwealth.

As stockings became more attractive and fashionable after 1910, dressmakers began to raise hemlines, putting the female shoe on full display. The idea of the shoe as a fashion statement drastically changed the way that female consumers thought about shoes. Women sought out shoes not only for practicality, but also for variety, expanding shoe wardrobes. To meet the demand of changing fashions, the production of women’s shoes increased by almost thirty percent between 1914 and 1919.

In order for larger collections of shoes to be made available to the average female buyer, shoemakers had to make styles more affordable. Regardless, the early twentieth century saw an overstocking of product as new styles replaced older ones. Stores would, by contract, return unsold merchandise to factories. While some factories developed factory outlets to serve as a retail space for “old” fashions, most shoemakers were not equipped to deal with this influx of returning product.