Why mid-century houses had small closets: The Century in Shoes

Our mid-century houses have small closets because our relatives had less stuff. Case in point: According to the nifty little website, The Century in Shoes, in 1940 the average American woman owned just five pairs of shoes. That was considered a lot. But, even that upward trend came to a screeching halt in 1943 when the U.S. began rationing shoes. If you have a few minutes, take a quick walk through shoe history, using this site’s “dial a decade.” Just like looking at the history of steel kitchen cabinets, the history of shoes embraces so much more than you would ever think. History. It’s funny that way. Meanwhile, if you want (dare I say “need”?) some 1940s style shoes of your own, remember my recent post about reproduction Re-Mix Vintage Shoes.

  1. gavin hastings says:

    Very interesting.
    !00 years later-and I still own only 5 pairs!

    I am surprised to see my beloved and “upper-back mangling” Earth Shoes omitted. Ugly-yes, but I was the first one at school with ’em in 1974! Oh, and the orange-y Reindeer Frye Boots!

  2. Mel Kolstad says:

    How cool is that website? It is, as you would say, Pam, a major time-suck. But SO fun! 😀

    I am by no means a shoe-hound, but I certainly have more than four pairs of shoes! I can’t imagine anyone (even guys) who have fewer than four pairs, especially if they do any sort of walking or running.

  3. Bethany says:

    Thank you for helping me to understand and appreciate my teeny tiny closets (my little house was built in the 20’s. It also has a teensy kitchen that needs some work, but I love it just the same!) I’m so excited to find your blog!! Can’t wait to read more!

  4. Jeanne says:

    I wanted white Go Go boots SO bad when I was young, but my mom wouldn’t buy me any white shoes because of scuffs.

    I remember my dad requesting all of our shoes be put at the top of the basement stairs on Saturday morning, and he would go down and polish them all. People just don’t do that any more!

  5. nina462 says:

    I had the white go go boots too.
    This was a great website-I was a shoe buyer for Penneys in the 80’s (what better job for a gal, right?).
    While I have more than 4 pairs of shoes, I don’t have a closet full of them. I have scored some vintage shoes (50’s heels) for a $1 each at a Cancer garage sale a few years back.
    My house has 2 closets in the master bedroom…one that I keep joking about turning into a shoe closet -(was supposed to be a bathroom according to the blue prints).
    Very cool website…I love the dialing by century feature.

  6. Ang says:

    For some SERIOUS shoe eye candy, check out shoe-icons.com . Its a virtual shoe museum, dating as far back as the early 1800s. You click into shoes, then by decade/era….you can read a brief history on the era in shoes selected (say, 40s) and then click “exhibits” and see pages of shoes they’ve collected and photographed from each decade. Its heaven! (I’m a little biased, having sold them a few pairs over the years, but even if I hadn’t I’d be smitten by the site!)

  7. MrsErinD says:

    Boy, we’ve been snowed in, 3 feet, and I have so much to catch up on!

    Cute shoes!!

    I have to add another retro shoe site to the list, if you want ACCURATE reproduction saddle shoes, go to Muffys.com http://www.muffys.com/
    I just bought a pair of Muffy’s own custom made classic black and white saddles, and I adore them! I have wanted saddle shoes since I was a kid in grade school and saw Grease, lol. Finally got them. But I wanted real authentic reproductions. Muffy’s has authentic reproductions and they are all leather, love that “new shoe smell” haha, reminds me of going to shoe stores as a kid. Anyhow, they are gorgeous, and the ones I got are only available there. Haha, I sound like an ad! No I am not paid by them! ;O) Just very happy.

  8. Emily says:

    Great post Pam!!! I am a shoe addict, vintage especially!! We won’t even say how many pairs I own, but it’s certainly many many more than 5. I love finding websites that add to your bank of growing information on a topic you love. 🙂

  9. marjorie says:

    My mom grew up during the war(WWII,that is) and never had a leather pair of shoes until after the war because her brothers needed boots to wear and that used up the ration stamps — she wore fabric espadrilles or satin dress shoes or raffia sandals…..

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