The touch of Vivier

The September 1st issue of the New Yorker (the big fashion issue, with the Marc Jacobs interview) did a little profile on the return of the stiletto (and points out that yes, it never really left) in their regular “On and Off the Avenue” column. Specifically, it pointed to Roger Vivier’s ‘Rose ‘N Roll’ platform sandal with “a five-inch heel shaped like a thorn” as evidence of the new stiletto/platform crossbreed shoe that will gain greater popularity than either the straight stiletto or the straight platform.

For those interested in a little more eye candy, check out this video of a recent exclusive Vivier shopping night in Paris (including some shots of the re-introduced pilgrim pump from the 1960s).

For those not familiar, a brief history explains why this stiletto platform hybrid innovation is so apropos for Rodger Vivier.

Though he had previously garnered attention for his innovative work on the platform in the 1930s, Vivier – a French shoe designer – began to be recognized for his work during the 1950s. He had studied sculpture and also designed models for manufacturers across the globe, including “Pinet and Bally in France, Salamander and Mercedes in Germany, Rayne and Turner in England, and Delman in the United States.”[1] In 1937, Vivier opened his own design house in the Rue Royale, but continued to design for Delman.

That same year, Delman rejected a Vivier design for being “an orthopedic-style, cork soled platform shoe,” which he quickly offered to surrealist designer Elsa Schiaprelli. She then included the shoes in her 1938 collection.[2] During the war, Vivier went to the US, continuing to work for Delman and branching into hat design.[3]

In January of 1953, Vivier was invited by Christian Dior to begin designing shoes for the newly formed Christian Dior-Delman company.[4] Vivier, with his name included on the label, worked for Dior for the following ten years.[5] His innovative shoe designs astounded and beguiled women, and his elaborate decorations featured pearls, feathers, lace, tulle, rhinestones, intricate embroidery by Rebe, cascading crystal beads, and other decadent trimmings.[6]

Vivier drawer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Costume Institute

Vivier drawer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Costume Institute

Most famously, however, Viver became known for the style and shape of his heels. Though it is unclear who first introduced the Stiletto, Roger Vivier is usually credited with inventing it.[7] Calling it “talon aiguille” (or needle heel), it was reinforced with steel and finely tapered.[8]

Using his early training in sculpture and applying the principals of aerodynamics to footwear, he created other amazing heel shapes, including: the shock heel, the comma heel, Punchinello heel, the bobbin or spool heel, and even a heel made of a ball of rhinestones.[9] He also created innovative toe shapes, including the needle toe, the chisel toe, the square toe, and a turned up toe. [10]

The Comma heel (1957, LACMA)

The comma heel (1957, LACMA)

(1961, Metropolitan Museum of Art, CI)

(1961, Metropolitan Museum of Art, CI)

In the 1960s, Vivier continued to provide shoes for a variety of designers including, Pierre Balmain, Guy Laroche, Nina Ricci, Cristobal Balenciaga, Emmanuel Ungaro, Madame Gres, and Andre Courreges.[11] Most importantly, however, was his partnership with Yves Saint Laurent, which lasted from 1962 through 1970. For YSL, Viver created a silver-buckle pilgrim pump that would become one of histories most copied shoe (Retro examples of the pilgrim pump are visible in the first video). [12]

For more on the shoes in the collection of the metropolitan museum of arts, costume institute read this. Here too is a video of a recent exhibit (including some amazing shoes by Vivier) at Le musée international de la chaussure.

Until next time,

[1] Trasko, Mary. Heavenly Soles: Extraordinary 20th Century Shoes. New York: Abberville Press, 1989. 46

[2] Pattison, Angela and Nigel Cawthorne. A Century of Shoes: Icons of Style in the 20th century Australia: Universal International, 1997. 19.

[3] Pattison 21-23.

[4] Kyoto Costume Institute. Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century. NewYork: Taschen, 2000. 522; Pattison 21-23.

[5] Trasko 77-78.

[6] Trasko 82.

[7] Pratt, Lucy and Linda Woolley. Shoes. London : V&A Publications, 1999. 101

[8] Pratt 101; Trasko 69.

[9] Baudot, Francois. A Century of Fashion. London: Thames & Hudson, 1999. 152; Trasko 69, 78.

[10] Baudot 152; Pattison 44.

[11] Baudot 152; Trasko 101.

[12] Trasko 97.

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  • Priscilla February 13, 2009 08.36 pm

    WOW !! I think Roger Vivier’s collection are absolutely gorgeous !!
    I would love to have one but it’s too expensive for a pair of shoes. Haha.
    But i have to admit that all the shoe designs are too die for !!!!!!
    Love it <3

  • Worn Through » 2 Years of Worn Through-A Look Back
    June 19, 2009 - 5:05 am

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