Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bella Hess Ladies Shoes from 1940

I am surprised how cool these are. Not a lot of color choices, but some exotic shapes. Which ones do you want in your closet?
(This is a repeat post from February 2009)


  1. I want them all??? :) If I really had to choose....I guess it would be E from the second scan!

  2. How could I ever choose? Why did we ever stop wearing these styles, they are so gorgeous. The ones that surprised me the most are the cutaway wedges - I would not have expected to see those in the 40s!

    1. Wedges were extremely popular in the 1940's. They became a very popular"go to" style during the war years, when the materials for, and hence the actual shoes, became extremely rationed during that time. Leather for shoes was needed at alarming rates for military uses. Not just for combat boots and shoes, although that took much of the supply, but also for things like belts, holsters for handguns, and even shoulder bags/purses for women's use who served in the military and were issued regulation style shoulder bags to go with their uniforms. Rationing started out for leather shoes at three pair per person per YEAR, and later in the years, it went down to two pair a year.
      Metal was also restricted in making shoes, as it was used in the form of steel shanks inside the construction of women's high heels. That is what keeps the soles stiff in the arch area and keeps the whole shoe from collapsing when you stand up and walk in them. If you look at a woman's shoe from the side, in the arch area, you can easily see why this would be important. Just all leather construction there would never be able to hold anyone up if the heel is high, and the shoe would just collapse.
      So, in order to bypass the rationing and other restrictions on women's high heel and leather shoes, fabric uppers became very popular and widespread in warm weather, as well as wedge heel construction, because there was neither leather nor metal required to make them. And you could buy as many unrestricted and unrationed shoes as you could afford. Wood also became a popular material for soles, as well as fabric covered cork.
      As for rationed shoes, you could buy them through mail order catalogs, and many did, simply by sending in your ration coupon with your order. Saving them to use to purchase leather shoes and boots for colder weather made more sense, especially in the case of growing children, who would require them for school and church wear.
      Nobody restricted trading ration coupons either, because the concept involved rationing across the general population to make sure everyone had access to a minimum supply of necessities. If you raised your own chickens, or milked a cow or two for your own use and made your own butter, nothing was going to stop you from trading unneeded meat or fat rationing coupons with someone else who might need them more than they needed a pair of shoes. It happened a lot. I've heard stories of groups of neighbors who would gather for coffee every so often to haggle and trade ration coupons. Unlike food stamps today, every man, woman, and child had their own ration book, and each was entitled to the same amounts of commodities. Trading them was not restricted.
      Since gasoline rationing and the unavailability of tires became a problem, as well as the National Victory Speed Limit of 35mph, restricting pleasure driving severely, mail order became quite popular as well, because you could leave all the driving to the Postal Service, and order whatever you could get from catalogs from the comfort of your own home, at your convenience. Working in the war industries during the war years left precious little time for shopping trips anyway! This you could do at any hour, any day of the week, and drop it in your outgoing mail, and have everything delivered right to your door.

  3. The shoes are terrific and the prices are to die for!

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  6. The color choices really aren't too bad, considering it appears to be a cooler season catalog. I went to the photobucket image page for one of them and enlarged it so I could read the text better. You can choose from Black, Brown, Navy, Dark Green and Wine, and different materials as well. There's suede, patent leather trim, alligator tips and trim in different colors, calf leather, and so forth. With all those choices, although not every shoe has every choice, still that's not bad considering there's only a few months to get through before warmer weather sets in and the brighter colors come out!
    As for the availability of different types and styles for 1940, you'd be amazed at the styles available and popular for the 1920's that we still covet and enjoy wearing today!