Beth Levine (1914 - 2006) was the first successful female shoe designer in an era and field dominated by men. In 1950, Beth and her husband started a shoe factory in New York where she designed shoes under his name, Herbert Levine. She is quoted as saying, 'Herb handled the business and I thought up outrageous things to keep him amused.'
Spring-o-lator. The elastic enabled the shoe to keep in contact with the foot.
Finding her start as a shoe model, Beth was uniquely suited to understanding the needs of women’s shoes, and was known for the comfort, wearability and beauty of her designs. Both practical and whimsical, she is credited with numerous ‘firsts’ such as the Spring-o-lator and the topless ‘No’ shoe. We have Beth to thank for Nancy Sinatra's boots, and she also created pop-influenced shoes which resembled sports cars or Aladdin's lamp. Together, she and Herbert won numerous design and industry awards, notably in 1967 for the stretch boot, which was essentially a pair of stockings with a heel.
Nancy Sinatra - These boots were made for walkin'
Rolled heel velvet mules - these have long been a favourite of mine.
Beth was instrumental in the popularity of the mule, which prior to that was a style only seen in Europe. She designed footwear for many famous clients, including four First Ladies, Halston, Marylin Monroe, and Cher. She was great at predicting trends and experimenting with materials, using timber commonly used in furniture, Astroturf, frog skin, braided play money, and various innovations in the use of plastic.
Curled plastic strips - 1950s.
Bellevue Arts Museum in Washington State, USA, is hosting a first-time retrospective of Beth Levine's work. Featuring ephemera and over 100 pairs of shoes and boots, this event would make my mouth water. If anyone is in the area, please go and visit, pick up a catalogue for me and I promise that you will be on my Christmas card list!
Runs until June 6th 2010. Oh boy.