Chopines were a peculiar Venetian shoe style that was much commented on by contemporaries, mainly by travellers. It is said that they were invented to counter sumptuary laws that limited the skirt length, and therefore the amount of precious fabric that could be used to show off one's wealth. If you only were allowed floor-length skirts without a train, you simply saw to it that "floor-length" was, well, longer. Apart from that, I believe that the ladies' inability to properly move around was also an instrument of flirtation, just like a Geisha's high geta that force her to move slowly and carefully. Apparently, ladies wearing chopines even needed the help of someone they could lean on. Seeing these half-metre-high specimens, this appears perfectly believable. This pair from the shoe museum in Weißenfels looks positively harmless by comparison.
While most chopines are dated to the 16th century, this pair here has been labeled by the museum as "c. 1600". They are covered in white leather (probably kid). The actual slipper on top is lined with read leather which shows through ornamental cut-outs. In other places, the white top leather has been stamped with circular and S-shaped irons, slashed, and shaped over two lines of what could well be cording.
It's interesting that the tops of most chopines are slanted like high-heel shoes. High heels force the hips forward and induce a certain kind of walk that was and is considered sexy. This supports my suspicion that chopines were not only worn in order to show off as much fabric as possible.
There are two more detailed pictures of the top in the database.
Pictures of the month archive
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