Exhibitions

Delicate pointed toes peeping out beneath the voluminous skirts made a woman’s foot appear tiny, and high, slender heels added to her allure, as this 1753 British rhyme suggests: "Mount on French heels when you go to a ball, / 'Tis the fashion to totter and show you can fall."

Scholars believe that the heeled shoe originated in Persia, where cavalrymen wore heeled boots to keep their feet in the stirrups. Aristocratic European men of the late 1500s embraced high-heeled shoes for their exotic, masculine aura. By the early 1700s, however, high heels were considered symbols of irrationality. Men thus abandoned them to women, who had also eagerly adopted the style.