Edward Steichen Captures the 1920s: Shoes for Vogue Magazine

Edward Steichen captured the beauty and refinement of 1920s fashion and style in numerous photo shoots for Vogue Magazine. In the photo above of the "barrette" shoe, with its slightly pointed toe and revived Louis heel, Steichen skillfully conveys a number of messages to the viewer. In this one detail shot, he reveals a bit of the carefree yet luxurious environment of the roaring twenties, while also highlighting several key merchandizing elements employed by the savvy fashion photographer and art director to attract the style conscious consumer.

In particular, note the proportions of the "foot model." Her neatly turned ankle is especially diminutive in dimension, the calf elongated and slender (but not bony) and the foot itself on the small size, but more importantly, it was narrow--long considered in some elite circles to be praiseworthy. Not every model could be a foot, hand or hat model. The models legs give the impression of being crossed at the ankle, which further reinforced the appropriateness of the image. The lacy hem sweeps (enticingly) just above the knee. The setting against what would have been recognized as a silk textile further heightened the aspect of luxury. The image conveyed the latest style, and suggested that wearing the shoes would lead to a positive experience with an underlying  message of gentility and sophistication. This would all be absorbed and understood quickly by the viewer - just as the subliminal (and not so subliminal) advertising used today. Steichen was a master in this genre.

Photographs courtesy Vogue Magazine/Conde Nast

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