My current work in progress is set in Venice, and to stick with my subject, today I'm talking about shoes. And Oh what shoes! I saw a pair in a museum in Venice. Just looking made my feet hurt.
In early modern Venice, around the mid-fifteenth to mid-sixteenth centuries, the footwear of Venetian women drew the eyes of every visitor downward, and no wonder. Chopines, the impossibly high clogs considered the latest fashion, were worn by any woman who could afford them, usually courtesans or the wealthy, as they were hardly attire for a cleaning woman or baker's daughter.
The shoes were made of wood or cork, with leather or man-made material for the tops. The platforms were frequently decorated with jewels and extravagant designs, and sometimes tassels hung from the toes.
Women wearing chopines had to be supported either by men or servants so the wearer would not slip or fall as they strolled along the Grand Canal to see and be seen.
There is controversy over just where the style originated; some say it came from China, where the women prided themselves on small feet, an indication of wealth and helplessness. Others argue the fashion came from the Turkish baths, where women wore slightly elevated shoes.
No matter the origin, the fashion eventually died out, and I suppose today spike heels would be considered just as dangerous, especially if strolling on cobbled streets and crossing the Rialto Bridge. Here are directions to making your very own pair of chopines .