What to wear? What shoes should I wear? Those are two questions that every woman probably asks herself every morning. Maybe back in the early 20th Century, the first question was asked regularly, but I doubt if the second question was asked that often.
In the early 1900s most women probably didn't have too many choices for shoes. The fashion back then was to have button-down, also known as high-button, shoes. These shoes became the style in the late 1800s and remained in high fashion until after World War I. These leather shoes, rising well above the ankle, were fastened by a row of buttons that fastened an extra flap of leather over the front of the shoe.
I don't know about you, but those shoes don't look too comfortable to me. The reason they were so high was to prevent any gentleman from peaking at the ankles of his woman friend if her ankle length skirt happened to ride up an inch or so.
Can you imagine reaching all the way to your feet to button those small buttons into the buttonholes? People found it nearly impossible back then also. Thus a very necessary tool was invented to help with this--the buttonhook.
"Once the shoes were on the feet, the hook was threaded through each small buttonhole, then hooked around the button and pulled back out, buttoning the shoe," according to "Fashion Encyclopedia." I'm sure the process of buttoning your shoes was accomplished much faster with the use of a buttonhook.As the hemlines of skirts started getting shorter after WWI, the use of buttonhole shoes became unfashionable. Now women were happy to show off their ankles and legs with the new "flapper" dresses that were worn in the 20s.
It was interesting to learn that the collection of buttonhooks didn't disappear along with those old style shoes. In fact, if you still own a collection of buttonhooks today you might be in the The Buttonhook Society and even attend their annual convention. Check out the web page if you collect these rare gems.
For me, I'm glad we wear flip-flops or sandals these days. High-button shoes do not sound too appealing to me.
Information taken from History of Button-Down Shoes.