V164: Vintage Shoe Ads of 1939-1941

Oh how I love shoes, particularly vintage 20th century shoes.  They make me swoon!  Some of you already know I’m working on a couple 1920s and 30s designs for next year’s American Duchess historical footwear lineup (don’t worry, there will be “oldiers” in there too), and I wanted to share with you some of the reference images that are inspiring me lately…

These are from Sears Catalog and Chicago Mail Order Catalog, 1939, ’40, and ’41, the entireties of which were given to me by a friend and local vintage enthusiast. Enjoy!

(lots of images under the cut…)

I’ll take any on this page, please. Or all.  I’ll take all.

It is surprising how these late 30s shoes make use of quite a lot of elastic, to get them to fit perfectly

Square toes seemed to be a popular, but short-lived fashion for the end of the 1930s.  We don’t see many of these in extant collections these days, though.

So what do you say, one of each? in every color?  Real vintage shoes are so, so well-balanced and beautifully crafted.  It is my ambition to re-create these aspects, but for our modern comfort!


  • Katie

    June 12, 2012 at 10:59 PM

    Looks like all of them have 3"+ heels!! As I start out 6' tall, I'm always looking for low-heeled shoes… But they're gorgeous!

    • Lauren R

      June 13, 2012 at 9:43 PM

      They are pretty high, although the typical heel in the 1930s was between 2 and 3 inches. 3 inches were quite a feet, because heels were still being made in wood at that time, with no central shank (the "stilleto"). You could most definitely break a heel in some of these!

  • Angela Reichelderfer

    June 13, 2012 at 12:31 AM

    I adore 1940s shoes – they make a lady's feet and ankles look marvelous (must be their chunky style and elevated arch)! A future shoe design for the American Duchess, maybe? 🙂

  • Anonymous

    June 13, 2012 at 2:06 AM

    That chunky heel is so marvellous, sexy and practical; but so hard to find these days! Such a shame. There's definitely a hole in the market for them! Totally love to see some like these in your shop 🙂
    Thanks so much for sharing!


    • Lauren R

      June 13, 2012 at 9:44 PM

      I agree! Occasionally the chunky '40s look comes back into stores, but it's always with a modern twist, never a dead-on reproduction.

  • Anonymous

    June 13, 2012 at 3:46 PM

    They're cute! But it's kind of freaky the way those ankles are bent.

    I'm not very interested in 20th century fashion but I do have two pairs of shoes from my grandmother in a style similar to these, I think they are from the 40's. One pair is made of a soft, fuzzy fabric and has a neat button detail in the front, if you are interested in pictures of vintage shoes I could take some and send them to you.

  • Mikey

    June 15, 2012 at 12:28 PM

    … I dreamed last night that my black astorias had finally arrived, but when I opened them up they were white with laces, just like in the first picture… I was kind of upset about it all.

    Luckily my shoes did finally arrive and I just picked them up, they are black and Astorias!! glad they are, I could never walk in those high heels.

    btw, the fit over my high arch, did take me a bit of trouble to get them closed but once they are they are quite comfortable!!


  • Mikey

    June 15, 2012 at 12:32 PM

    ow btw, I am following downton abbey, which is broadcast again here in the netherlands, and missing most of the first episodes, I am now trying to see them all. I have to say I loove those dresses!!
    I said before I had no need for edwardian shoes as I don't have any of those dresses, but now i do have the shoes and loove the dresses, so it's only a matter of time before I start on my first edwardian dress. I think I even got a book about turn of the century dresses (with patterns), which might fit in this era

  • Lyric

    June 19, 2012 at 7:59 PM

    LOOK at those prices!!!! I just want one pair, one pair, please. There has GOT to be a modern day source for these? If anyone knows, PLEASE email me or SOMETHING!!! ~~~~ Dooogling (drooling and oogling).


  • Mylene Richard

    July 9, 2017 at 5:25 PM

    They are gorgeous! Thank you for sharing. It's fascinating that nearly all these shoes were offered in 3 different widths! Today on Sears website, you got a 1000 of shoes in medium width and only 338 wide and 134 narrows. I guess a good fit was more important back then.

    I can't wait to see what you'll get out of those pages of inspiration!


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