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Women from the Ankle Down: The Story of Shoes and How They Define Us

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Rachelle Bergstein brings readers along on a unique and delightful romp through the history of shoes, the women who wear them, and the profound impact they have on our lives. Women from the Ankle Down includes interviews and cameos with influential figures ranging from Lisa Mayock of Vena Cava to Oscar Award–winning costume designer Patrizia van Brandenstein, from Doc Marte Rachelle Bergstein brings readers along on a unique and delightful romp through the history of shoes, the women who wear them, and the profound impact they have on our lives. Women from the Ankle Down includes interviews and cameos with influential figures ranging from Lisa Mayock of Vena Cava to Oscar Award–winning costume designer Patrizia van Brandenstein, from Doc Martens historian Martin Roach to Fashion Institute of Technology museum director Valerie Steele; from Marilyn Monroe and Jane Fonda to Salvador Ferragamo and Christian Dior; from Judy Garland to Wonder Woman.


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Rachelle Bergstein brings readers along on a unique and delightful romp through the history of shoes, the women who wear them, and the profound impact they have on our lives. Women from the Ankle Down includes interviews and cameos with influential figures ranging from Lisa Mayock of Vena Cava to Oscar Award–winning costume designer Patrizia van Brandenstein, from Doc Marte Rachelle Bergstein brings readers along on a unique and delightful romp through the history of shoes, the women who wear them, and the profound impact they have on our lives. Women from the Ankle Down includes interviews and cameos with influential figures ranging from Lisa Mayock of Vena Cava to Oscar Award–winning costume designer Patrizia van Brandenstein, from Doc Martens historian Martin Roach to Fashion Institute of Technology museum director Valerie Steele; from Marilyn Monroe and Jane Fonda to Salvador Ferragamo and Christian Dior; from Judy Garland to Wonder Woman.

30 review for Women from the Ankle Down: The Story of Shoes and How They Define Us

  1. 5 out of 5

    Toni

    The title and premise of this book are a little misleading. Or maybe my expectations were a little off. This was really a mini-history of shoes from the 20th century, beginning with the arrival of Salvatore Ferragamo on the scene and in America. Bergstein chooses to tell this story mainly through the tales of some iconic shoes: Dorothy's "ruby" slippers, stilettos (of course), Birkenstocks, Chuck Taylor's, etc. While I did learn a few things (Ferragamo's history was really interesting), this fel The title and premise of this book are a little misleading. Or maybe my expectations were a little off. This was really a mini-history of shoes from the 20th century, beginning with the arrival of Salvatore Ferragamo on the scene and in America. Bergstein chooses to tell this story mainly through the tales of some iconic shoes: Dorothy's "ruby" slippers, stilettos (of course), Birkenstocks, Chuck Taylor's, etc. While I did learn a few things (Ferragamo's history was really interesting), this felt more like a collection of anecdotes, insider tales and Hollywood stories about shoes. And the chapter on 70's shoes and platforms was mainly about men. Certainly not the book I was expecting, but a decent read nonetheless.

  2. 5 out of 5

    switterbug (Betsey)

    I get a kick out of women's shoes--the protrusions and spikes, the high fashion toes like ship's prows and the platforms like personal podiums. Bergstein's debut book on how shoes define women offers the reader a celebrity-infused history of our relationship to footwear. The diversity of shoes reflects something more than function and personal style; our choices are inextricably laced with desire and identified with social currency. Bergstein begins with Farragamo's humble beginnings in a small I I get a kick out of women's shoes--the protrusions and spikes, the high fashion toes like ship's prows and the platforms like personal podiums. Bergstein's debut book on how shoes define women offers the reader a celebrity-infused history of our relationship to footwear. The diversity of shoes reflects something more than function and personal style; our choices are inextricably laced with desire and identified with social currency. Bergstein begins with Farragamo's humble beginnings in a small Italian village in 1907 and ends with the contemporary fascination with celebrities and the desire to emulate their expensive branding styles, specifically Sarah Jessica-Parker (aka Carrie Bradshaw) from the popular show, Sex and the City. The hit show put Manolo Blahnik on the map (Minolos), a high end designer whose eponymous shoes were referred to by Carrie Bradshaw as "Hello, lover" in one episode. A hefty section is devoted to the illustrious ruby slippers, including anecdotes on Judy Garland's career and her difficulty fitting in with the Hollywood definition of beauty, as well as the relatable themes of The Wizard of Oz during the Great Depression. Much of the history portrayed on the ruby slippers is common knowledge or easily accessible on Wikipedia. There isn't much that Bergstein wrote about this topic that I didn't already know. "It Girls" like Marilyn Munroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Lana Turner, to the Olsen twins, Jessica-Parker and Naomi Campbell (and more) suffuse the pages with their soles. Peruvian painter, Alberto Vargas and his famous pin-up girls, or "Varga girls," also had a huge influence on the shoes women desired during the mid-twentieth century. The ascendency of Jane Fonda's 1980's workout put trainers on the map, like Reebok, and later, Nike. Chuck Taylors and iconic Doc Martens are covered in some detail, also. Shoes commandeered by rock stars and grunge musicians; fashion models; movie stars; and even Wonder Woman illustrate the social agency of the wannabe culture that imitates. Boots, ballet shoes, sandals, stilettos, pumps, sling-backs, platforms, clogs, crocs--and even the World War II flat, practical shoe style adorn the pages. Bergstein writes in an affable style, creating an accessible narrative out of a chronological history. However, I thought this was going to have more of an anthropological context than it ultimately offered. Of course, celebrities love their Louboutins, the glossy red-soled status symbol of the new woman, and consumers have a rabid attraction to every shoe selected by Carrie Bradshaw. But, after a while, I tired of reading about celebrities. Although Bergstein, to her credit, talked about everything from Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique to the disco culture and women's lib, some of these anecdotes strained to fit in with her central narrative. Sometimes she would veer off, i.e. talking about Judy Garland's weight problem or John Travolta's swagger, The Wizard of Oz appealing to a humble platitude of home and family, tidbits that are already well known or digressing from the premise. By the time the book was done, I was up to my thighs in Sex and the City, and how a pedestrian TV show became a touchstone for consumers' feet.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    Bergstein frames the social and popular culture history of women in the 20th century through iconic shoes--Ferragamo, Hollywood and the first mass marketed luxury brand (disclaimer--I buy Ferragamo 8.5AAAA), the ruby slippers and the Depression, wartime rationing and cork wedges, Dior and the New Look's stilettos of conspicuous consumption, Audrey Hepburn's beatnik ballet flats, hippies and Birkenstocks, disco and platform shoes, Jane Fonda's aerobic Reeboks, grunge and Doc Martens and Carrie's Bergstein frames the social and popular culture history of women in the 20th century through iconic shoes--Ferragamo, Hollywood and the first mass marketed luxury brand (disclaimer--I buy Ferragamo 8.5AAAA), the ruby slippers and the Depression, wartime rationing and cork wedges, Dior and the New Look's stilettos of conspicuous consumption, Audrey Hepburn's beatnik ballet flats, hippies and Birkenstocks, disco and platform shoes, Jane Fonda's aerobic Reeboks, grunge and Doc Martens and Carrie's Bradshaw's Manolos.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I loved it. forget 50 shades of grey, shoe porn is for me.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Terri Durling

    I was gifted this book by a group of girlfriends who knew of my love of shoes. I’ve had it a while and just got around to reading it. It’s basically a history of shoes starting in 1907 with Salvatore Ferragamo, Bonita, Italy and how he began his long and illustrious career making shoes. I enjoyed it for the most part and it drives into lots of iconic moments such as Judy Garland’s “ruby slippers”, Marilyn Monroe’s “New York stiletto sandals” gust of air New York subway scene and Sarah Jessica Pa I was gifted this book by a group of girlfriends who knew of my love of shoes. I’ve had it a while and just got around to reading it. It’s basically a history of shoes starting in 1907 with Salvatore Ferragamo, Bonita, Italy and how he began his long and illustrious career making shoes. I enjoyed it for the most part and it drives into lots of iconic moments such as Judy Garland’s “ruby slippers”, Marilyn Monroe’s “New York stiletto sandals” gust of air New York subway scene and Sarah Jessica Parker’s “A Woman’s Right to Shoes” scene in “Sex and the City”. It traces the roots of how womens shoes have evolved over the years sometimes sacrificing comfort in the process. There is no doubt how powerful a shoe can be. It can transform an outfit from casual chic, punk, rocker chic, eclectic to professional or sophisticated with the switch of shoe. There are even fairy tales, books and movies based on shoes like Cinderella, The Wizard of Oz, The Red Shoes and the Elves and the Shoemaker. For a shoeaholic such as myself, it’s a keeper. Berg Stein has done her research and I learned a lot from this book about one of my passions in life. I just bought my own pair if ruby slippers with big sparkly sequins embellishments from a store that focused mostly on formal wear. They are closing after COVID 19 because no one goes out anymore; thus begins another shoe revolution that sees women working from home more and not attending large social gatherings. I’ll still keep wearing my fancy shoes though.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Fern F

    I read Rachelle Bergstein's "Women from the Ankle Down," for research purposes, but it was highly enjoyable and full of interesting information and incredible anecdotes. Anyone interested in shoes and fashion history, should give it a whirl. Bergstein's story of shoes is really the story of shoes in the 20th century (and a little bit in the 21st century), and it's impressive to see how far we've come, from Ferragamo pointing out that cobblers should take foot anatomy into account when designing I read Rachelle Bergstein's "Women from the Ankle Down," for research purposes, but it was highly enjoyable and full of interesting information and incredible anecdotes. Anyone interested in shoes and fashion history, should give it a whirl. Bergstein's story of shoes is really the story of shoes in the 20th century (and a little bit in the 21st century), and it's impressive to see how far we've come, from Ferragamo pointing out that cobblers should take foot anatomy into account when designing a shoe (so obvious in retrospect) to the current diversification of styles that we see. It's an incredible overview of about 100 years of history and I like that Bernstein pairs the historical time with the type of shoe. It's something we've seen fashion historians do with clothes before, but it's exciting to see that connection made with shoes.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Marie

    If you are a shoe lover and/or love fashion history, this is a solid choice. I like how Bergstein takes a small handful of pivotal moments in shoe history and builds upon them, such as the story of Salvatore Ferragamo making comfortable heeled footwear for women in Italy and John Travolta's "Saturday Night Fever" dancing shoes. It would be a much longer, and possibly boring book if she were to capture EVERY major shoe moment in the book. Her numbers of examples worked well. Something I didn't li If you are a shoe lover and/or love fashion history, this is a solid choice. I like how Bergstein takes a small handful of pivotal moments in shoe history and builds upon them, such as the story of Salvatore Ferragamo making comfortable heeled footwear for women in Italy and John Travolta's "Saturday Night Fever" dancing shoes. It would be a much longer, and possibly boring book if she were to capture EVERY major shoe moment in the book. Her numbers of examples worked well. Something I didn't like is that the way the book was chaptered - I found it slightly confusing. Bergstein also tends to jump from one idea to another without much transition. I think this was due to the amount she covers. All in all, a good book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Caitlinleah

    My 90yo grandma got this book on tape and recommended it to me, so of course I put it on hold! Very readable and surprisingly interesting. “Footwear” is too large an issue to really write a consumer nonfiction book about but this is more footwear trends, footwear popularity, and the history of it’s bizarre allure. I like shoes, I have a bunch but I’m not a “shoe girl.” Reading about the phenomenon was fascinating. And shoes really do get higher whenever the country goes into recession. For real!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bailey

    I read this book for a dissertation about sneakers. It wasn't too great for that but I know a ton about the history of shoes in connection to the entertainment industry. It was a pretty entertaining read too and anybody interested in the history shoes this is a great book for that. I read this book for a dissertation about sneakers. It wasn't too great for that but I know a ton about the history of shoes in connection to the entertainment industry. It was a pretty entertaining read too and anybody interested in the history shoes this is a great book for that.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kara

    A man sitting next to me in a bagel shop said "is that really a book all about shoes?" For every lover of shoes...you know who you are. A man sitting next to me in a bagel shop said "is that really a book all about shoes?" For every lover of shoes...you know who you are.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Artzme

    Western cultural analysis and movie history through the lens of shoe love - simply a perfect fit.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Stacy Naberhuis

    DNF. The title is misleading

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    One thing I was reminded of while reading this book: I really need a new pair of classic black pumps. First of all, Women from the Ankle Down: The Story of Shoes and How They Define Us by Rachelle Bergstein is really a book about women’s shoes. There are mentions of men’s shoes, but not many — let’s face it, men’s shoes are boring. Most of this book is about women’s shoes and how they evolved and what influenced them. There is a lot of interesting information in this book about modern shoes. If yo One thing I was reminded of while reading this book: I really need a new pair of classic black pumps. First of all, Women from the Ankle Down: The Story of Shoes and How They Define Us by Rachelle Bergstein is really a book about women’s shoes. There are mentions of men’s shoes, but not many — let’s face it, men’s shoes are boring. Most of this book is about women’s shoes and how they evolved and what influenced them. There is a lot of interesting information in this book about modern shoes. If you’re looking for ancient shoes, for the history of foot-binding, look somewhere else. This little book starts with “Ferragamo and the Wartime Wedge (1900-1938)” and runs through Sex and the City (“Shoes and the Single Girl (1998-2008)”). Lots of detail about how certain styles evolved and how shoes go in and out of style, along with some interesting bits of shoe lore. I love shoes! Sadly, my work requires mostly sensible shoes now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t drool over the latest styles (although I cannot wait for the hooker-platform fad to pass — can’t happen soon enough). I enjoyed getting a bit of insight into what was fashionable and what was controversial in different generations (who would have thought of ballet flats as rebellious?). I also didn’t know that shoes were actually rationed during the war: “As it was, the ration stipulated not only how many shoes consumers could buy but also what kind of shoes the footwear industry was permitted to produce going forward…For women, the shoe ration instantly outlawed flourishes which had become the quintessence of a varied shoe collection.” The American government even limited the colors that could be used in shoe production to 4 — black, white, town brown and army russet. Heel heights were regulated and so were the height of boots. Bergstein covers the rise of Birkenstocks, the influence of the movies on shoes (and vice versa) and Girl Power, Saturday Night Fever and the battle between Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo. What she doesn’t do is provide a single photograph! Unless photos were added in the finished version (mine was an uncorrected proof), I think it’s a huge gap, a big missing piece of the puzzle in the book, which can’t really be overcome by the line drawings at the start of each chapter. Also, you can get away with using “vertiginous” once, if you use it correctly (it doesn’t just mean tall), but six times? Now you’re just showing off, and not in a good way. All in all, an interesting and enjoyable book, if not too deep into history.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bridget

    I had read a review of this book, and was intrigued, so I borrowed a copy from the library. I should qualify this by saying that a) I am fascinated with the history of clothing, and b) one of the ways in which I am a stereotypical woman is that I love shoes. This is a very readable social history of women's shoes, and I found it to be really interesting. For instance, I didn't know that until the mid-nineteenth century, only well-to-do people had shoes that we made for one foot or the other. I al I had read a review of this book, and was intrigued, so I borrowed a copy from the library. I should qualify this by saying that a) I am fascinated with the history of clothing, and b) one of the ways in which I am a stereotypical woman is that I love shoes. This is a very readable social history of women's shoes, and I found it to be really interesting. For instance, I didn't know that until the mid-nineteenth century, only well-to-do people had shoes that we made for one foot or the other. I also didn't know that for a while in France, only members of the royal family were allowed to wear shoes with red heels. And numerous other factoids such as those. But the book is more than a listing of interesting items that are fact. It's actually a history of shoes, divided by time period, comparing the types 0f shoes that were popular to the events going on in the world at the time. Granted, it is small in scope, concentrating on the U. S., with a few forays to England, particularly during the 1960s, but since it does not claim to be a definitive work, that's fine with me. Bergstein is a good writer, and though I don't agree with some of her ideas and opinions, I really enjoyed reading this book. It gave me a real appreciation for what goes into a shoe, and how in today's world, there are an overabundance of disposable, cheap shoes, but also ridiculously priced shoes like those made by Charles Laboutin. I think if you enjoy social histories, written for the average reader, you will like this book. It could have been incredibly dull and academic, but instead is simply engaging.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Chelsi

    I got this book from Goodreads.com advanced reader giveaways**** I was really excited to have won this book from the giveaways section on goodreads because I love to read non-fiction books on random topics. This book is all about shoes, and though every girl knows some shoe basics, I never knew so many interesting stories about shoes existed. Each chapter focused on a different time period and on a different types of shoes. Usually, the chapter included a lot of pop culture too, which I will adm I got this book from Goodreads.com advanced reader giveaways**** I was really excited to have won this book from the giveaways section on goodreads because I love to read non-fiction books on random topics. This book is all about shoes, and though every girl knows some shoe basics, I never knew so many interesting stories about shoes existed. Each chapter focused on a different time period and on a different types of shoes. Usually, the chapter included a lot of pop culture too, which I will admit, I am not very well-rounded in. It turns out famous people of all industries (music, movies, politics) play a big part in the types of shoes we as women wear. While I enjoyed most of this book there were parts, mostly located toward the middle of this book, that I found myself a little bored. This may be because I love early 20th century history and not the 60's to 80's as much. This book was good in that the vocabulary was very understandable to someone without a thorough fashion background with explanations for many words that are not commonly known. I loved the cultural stories that were scattered through out the book and the drawings at the beginning of each chapter were a nice touch. Overall, I would recommend reading this book even though it does not make it on to my list of amazing books. There is a lot to learn and understand about how shoes actually play a big part in how women are perceived and how they want to be perceived and this book does a great job of doing that.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nina

    I'm not a shoe fanatic (in fact, I loathe shoes), but I do love history and this turned out to be really interesting. I was curious about why some women are obsessed with shoes (the author fesses up in the author's note at the end). Despite the title, she also addressed men's shoe styles over time. Shoes are a form of social currency, if you need that sort of validation. I had not been aware that shoes were rationed during WWII, including a reduction in the number of colors to 4; a limitation on I'm not a shoe fanatic (in fact, I loathe shoes), but I do love history and this turned out to be really interesting. I was curious about why some women are obsessed with shoes (the author fesses up in the author's note at the end). Despite the title, she also addressed men's shoe styles over time. Shoes are a form of social currency, if you need that sort of validation. I had not been aware that shoes were rationed during WWII, including a reduction in the number of colors to 4; a limitation on heel heights; and a limit on how many pairs you could buy per year. During that period, movie stars had to provide their own shoes for their roles. Some key shoe designers were highlighted; Ferragamo had a particularly interesting path to success. A few excerpts: "The stiletto was effective at classifying women by their economic rank and social value. If a woman couldn't manage to glide in the daily, vertiginous shoes? Then she hadn't earned the right to wear them. If a woman couldn't afford the luxury of staying off her feet? Then la-di-da -- stilettos weren't for her." "Wearing an impractical pair of shoes implied that a woman had room in her life for caprice." "Often worn by a woman of superior rank and considerable economic means, chopines unsurprisingly limited her range of motion, and in the most extreme cases required servants on either side to support the grande dame if she deigned to walk."

  17. 5 out of 5

    Meg - A Bookish Affair

    "Women from the Ankle Down" is a history of shoes with a focus on the 20th century. While it's mostly about women's shoes, there's some about men's footwear as well. I'm not a shoe person by any means (jewelry and purses are my personal poison) but I think the off-the-beaten-path history is always really fun to read about. This book isn't purely just a history of shoes. It's an engaging book full of anecdotes and pop culture. I thought it was really cool how Bergstein was able to show how shoes c "Women from the Ankle Down" is a history of shoes with a focus on the 20th century. While it's mostly about women's shoes, there's some about men's footwear as well. I'm not a shoe person by any means (jewelry and purses are my personal poison) but I think the off-the-beaten-path history is always really fun to read about. This book isn't purely just a history of shoes. It's an engaging book full of anecdotes and pop culture. I thought it was really cool how Bergstein was able to show how shoes changed with the culture and times in the United States. Admittedly, I think of fashion and current events often being completely separate entities whose only ties are that they happened to be around at the same time. Bergstein shows how fashion and current events really are much more aligned than they seem at first glance. This book is grouped by chapters, which each focus on a different era of the 20th century. I sometimes felt like the author was trying to squeeze in too many things at once. I really wish that the book would have been a little bit longer so that there could have been some more detail around the things that Bergstein discusses in the book. Overall, if you have an interest in shoes (or fashion for that matter) and pop-culture, this book is for you.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Only got as far as page 98. The book starts with the history of Ferragamo and I was interested in his story. I liked the tidbits of shoes in the movies and how they played an influential part in what women wore as well as setting the tone for a scene and the personality of a character. Sounds like a good book, huh? I just couldn't get past the authors opinion of women in the past being miserable and suppressed by their husbands. I admit that there was lots of that going on, but not all women wer Only got as far as page 98. The book starts with the history of Ferragamo and I was interested in his story. I liked the tidbits of shoes in the movies and how they played an influential part in what women wore as well as setting the tone for a scene and the personality of a character. Sounds like a good book, huh? I just couldn't get past the authors opinion of women in the past being miserable and suppressed by their husbands. I admit that there was lots of that going on, but not all women were unhappy and medicated. Her writing just seemed so negative to me. She gave no stories or experiences- just her own views on the unhappiness of women. However, even without her negative outlook on the life of women in the past, I was frustrated with the lack of pictures. It was hard to imagine all the shoes she was describing. When I read a history book, I want to see pictures of places and people. When reading a book on the history of shoes,I guess I need that visual help. She talked about Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. Why did she not include pictures of the styles she was referring to?

  19. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    This history of (mainly) women’s shoes pretty much starts in 1900, the point in history when women’s skirts became short enough to show their shoes, and when the making of shoes changed from a craftsman’s job of creating one pair at a time to factories that made hundreds of pairs in a day. This lowered the price of shoes to the point where the average person could afford more than one pair of shoes, and shoe obsessions could begin. The author intersperses biographies of famous shoemakers- Ferrag This history of (mainly) women’s shoes pretty much starts in 1900, the point in history when women’s skirts became short enough to show their shoes, and when the making of shoes changed from a craftsman’s job of creating one pair at a time to factories that made hundreds of pairs in a day. This lowered the price of shoes to the point where the average person could afford more than one pair of shoes, and shoe obsessions could begin. The author intersperses biographies of famous shoemakers- Ferragamo, Choo, Blahnik, Louboutin- with tales of how war time rationing affected shoe designs and materials, how Hollywood influenced shoe design, how changes in society required different shoes, how Jane Fonda made athletic shoes acceptable as everyday wear by adults, and how different subcultures need different footwear. She also connects shoe height with both the economy and the status of the wearer. It’s a fast, interesting read, combining fashion history with social history. I really enjoyed the book – I just wish the illustrations had been in the advanced reader copy!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kara Jorges

    When I saw there was a book about women and their shoes, I knew I wanted to read it. This book is about much more than that, though, telling the history of twentieth century western culture through footwear. Those of us who never had to live through war rationing don't usually give a lot of thought to supply and demand, but this book highlights how such things can dictate fashion when it tells the story of Salvatore Ferragamo and his invention of the wedgie. I also never knew how important Ferrag When I saw there was a book about women and their shoes, I knew I wanted to read it. This book is about much more than that, though, telling the history of twentieth century western culture through footwear. Those of us who never had to live through war rationing don't usually give a lot of thought to supply and demand, but this book highlights how such things can dictate fashion when it tells the story of Salvatore Ferragamo and his invention of the wedgie. I also never knew how important Ferragamo was to the very industry of shoemaking itself until I read this book. In addition, we learn how social and political statements have been and continue to be made through footwear that reflects the times. This book is far more than a woman's ode to shoes, and it thoughtfully explores their effect on both sexes through changing times. From high heels to Mary Janes to high-top sneakers, Women from the Ankle Down is an excellent history lesson from a very unique perspective.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    Hovering between 3.5 and 4 stars on this one..no especially groundbreaking or brand new information here, but a light, fun romp through the cultural history of shoes, that explores the relationship between women and their footwear. Made me wonder why I walked past the Bata Shoe Museum every day on my way to grad school and didn't ever go in! Inspired me to make a visit to Toronto for that very purpose in the near future. If you're into Sex and the City, loved the book Shoe Addicts Anonymous, or Hovering between 3.5 and 4 stars on this one..no especially groundbreaking or brand new information here, but a light, fun romp through the cultural history of shoes, that explores the relationship between women and their footwear. Made me wonder why I walked past the Bata Shoe Museum every day on my way to grad school and didn't ever go in! Inspired me to make a visit to Toronto for that very purpose in the near future. If you're into Sex and the City, loved the book Shoe Addicts Anonymous, or even just enjoy and appreciate a good stiletto, you will probably enjoy this book as much as I did. What was missing? Glossy, colour photos of the shoes in question would have made this book jump to a 4.5-5 star rating in my opinion. Although I did decide to click the 4th star rather than the 3rd for this reason: in the author's note, Bergstein mentions that the Canadian side of Niagara Falls blows the United States' side away. Oh Canada!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Evanston Public Library

    First of all, let me say that this book is not just about women's shoes. What women wore on their feet from the beginning of the 20th century to now is just author Bergstein's--pardon the pun--stepping off point for a look at the culture and morés of modern America. Chapters cover such topics as Salvatore Ferragamo's decision to leave Italy for America, but then return to Italy years later to perfect a superbly made designer shoe; and the little known sequence of events that led to the choice of First of all, let me say that this book is not just about women's shoes. What women wore on their feet from the beginning of the 20th century to now is just author Bergstein's--pardon the pun--stepping off point for a look at the culture and morés of modern America. Chapters cover such topics as Salvatore Ferragamo's decision to leave Italy for America, but then return to Italy years later to perfect a superbly made designer shoe; and the little known sequence of events that led to the choice of Judy Garland to play Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz," and changed the book's silver slippers to ruby ones. From the endurance of the foot-mangling stiletto heel to the explosion of sneaker chic in the 80's, Bergstein explores the changes in American society in a lively and entertaining manner that should please all shoe lovers. Barbara L.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kristin (Kritters Ramblings)

    Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings A look through history and how events in history effect fashion and specifically footwear. Starting at the beginning of how footwear really started becoming a way for women and men to show their personalities in the United States to how each war affected the fabrics that were used and even how to get shoes into the US from outside manufacturers. The most interesting thing for me was the correlation between historical events, fashion and their affect Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings A look through history and how events in history effect fashion and specifically footwear. Starting at the beginning of how footwear really started becoming a way for women and men to show their personalities in the United States to how each war affected the fabrics that were used and even how to get shoes into the US from outside manufacturers. The most interesting thing for me was the correlation between historical events, fashion and their affect on footwear. Distinctly the flapper era where the hemlines went up and women would want showy shoes since you saw them compared to previous decades where shoes were hidden and were more for function. The last few chapters spoke quite in depth about the music industry and how it has put a stamp on footwear and I enjoyed having those two things in one conversation.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Gretchen

    This book was incredibly well written and researched. Spanning the history of shoes from their earliest beginnings to today. This is a must read for those who love shoes and their history. Because it spans such a wide history Bergstein picks and chooses where to focus. Sometimes it's the lowly shoe maker and other times it's the Hollywood starlet. I enjoyed the shoemaker history more than the starlet and wish there would have been more focus on them. I do wish that this book provided pictures of This book was incredibly well written and researched. Spanning the history of shoes from their earliest beginnings to today. This is a must read for those who love shoes and their history. Because it spans such a wide history Bergstein picks and chooses where to focus. Sometimes it's the lowly shoe maker and other times it's the Hollywood starlet. I enjoyed the shoemaker history more than the starlet and wish there would have been more focus on them. I do wish that this book provided pictures of all the lovely shoes. The only thing better than reading about shoes is looking at pictures of shoes! (well trying them on would probably be better....but I don't think the book could do that)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth

    Ultimately a disappointing read. Bernstein tries hard to be Footwear's Mark Kurlansky. Like in the books "Cod" and "Salt" the shoe would reveal itself to be an object of hidden and outsized importance to our daily lives, more important than mere footwear, shoes are an extension of the history of women in the 20th century. But the subject does not hold up. Shoes wind up a weak prop to hang all this social change and the book winds up "A Short History of How Hollywood Makes Us Want to Buy Stuff an Ultimately a disappointing read. Bernstein tries hard to be Footwear's Mark Kurlansky. Like in the books "Cod" and "Salt" the shoe would reveal itself to be an object of hidden and outsized importance to our daily lives, more important than mere footwear, shoes are an extension of the history of women in the 20th century. But the subject does not hold up. Shoes wind up a weak prop to hang all this social change and the book winds up "A Short History of How Hollywood Makes Us Want to Buy Stuff and then Retroactively Give it Meaning."

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kari

    What a fun read! As a self-avowed shoe fan, this was a nice chance to learn a little more about the history behind some of the more popular shoe designers and make connections between historical events and corresponding shoe trends. While the history isn't super exhaustive (it feels like the author tended to "cherry pick" topics which resonated best with her own experience) it was interesting and I actually learned a little bit. What a fun read! As a self-avowed shoe fan, this was a nice chance to learn a little more about the history behind some of the more popular shoe designers and make connections between historical events and corresponding shoe trends. While the history isn't super exhaustive (it feels like the author tended to "cherry pick" topics which resonated best with her own experience) it was interesting and I actually learned a little bit.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kristal Cooper

    Very interesting and well-written history of shoe styles, pop culture, sociology, women's lib and how they all influence each other. You'll learn fun tidbits about beaded moccasins, tennis shoes, platforms, stilettos and many more fashions. The author is adept at pointing out how and why shoe trends dovetail or diverge. The only thing I'm curious about that she doesn't address is our recent move toward constant comfort with Birkenstocks, Crocs, Uggs and flip-flops. Very interesting and well-written history of shoe styles, pop culture, sociology, women's lib and how they all influence each other. You'll learn fun tidbits about beaded moccasins, tennis shoes, platforms, stilettos and many more fashions. The author is adept at pointing out how and why shoe trends dovetail or diverge. The only thing I'm curious about that she doesn't address is our recent move toward constant comfort with Birkenstocks, Crocs, Uggs and flip-flops.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Laurie Gold

    I just reviewed this for Amazon Vine. My review begins..."Shoes are many things for women. Some of us wear them for style, others for comfort, and still others to make environmental statements. Shoes are a way for women of all sizes and incomes to be fashionable and trendy, and may also provide generational links...." Please visit http://www.amazon.com/review/R179BLB9... for the remainder of my review. I just reviewed this for Amazon Vine. My review begins..."Shoes are many things for women. Some of us wear them for style, others for comfort, and still others to make environmental statements. Shoes are a way for women of all sizes and incomes to be fashionable and trendy, and may also provide generational links...." Please visit http://www.amazon.com/review/R179BLB9... for the remainder of my review.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sheila

    "Women ffom the Ankle Down" is the kind of book I wish I could get my husband to read. Bergstein does a fantastic job of tying together art, film, social customs, and fashion to make one understand why shoes matter...the statement(s) they make...and why women love them. The author's tone and obvious knowledge about her subject matter makes the topic accessible event to non-shoe mavens. This book, which I got as part of a Goodreads giveaway, was great! "Women ffom the Ankle Down" is the kind of book I wish I could get my husband to read. Bergstein does a fantastic job of tying together art, film, social customs, and fashion to make one understand why shoes matter...the statement(s) they make...and why women love them. The author's tone and obvious knowledge about her subject matter makes the topic accessible event to non-shoe mavens. This book, which I got as part of a Goodreads giveaway, was great!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Judy Chessin

    A fun fast read about women's shoe fashion and politics. It was a 3.5. I enjoyed the period descriptions as typified by the shoes...wedges, Dorothy's ruby slippers, femme fatale pinup pumps, Nancy Sinatra boots, Saturday Night Fever heels on men, Jane Fonda Reebok Freesyles, Vans, Doc Martins to Sex & the City Manolos. Each period is typified by a shoe and each shoe typifies an era. I think I'd give it a four if it was more sociological. Also, pictures would have done wonders for this book! A fun fast read about women's shoe fashion and politics. It was a 3.5. I enjoyed the period descriptions as typified by the shoes...wedges, Dorothy's ruby slippers, femme fatale pinup pumps, Nancy Sinatra boots, Saturday Night Fever heels on men, Jane Fonda Reebok Freesyles, Vans, Doc Martins to Sex & the City Manolos. Each period is typified by a shoe and each shoe typifies an era. I think I'd give it a four if it was more sociological. Also, pictures would have done wonders for this book!

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