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What are Stilettos?

Stilettos have very thin heels.
Marilyn Monroe often wore stilettos.
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  • Written By: A Kaminsky
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Images By: Garrincha, 1950Sunlimited
  • Last Modified Date: 27 August 2014
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They take their name from the slender switchblade, but stilettos, plural, are very high-heeled shoes. Some think they are as powerful in their own way as their namesake weapon.

Stilettos may be pumps, slings or sandals, but they all have a slender high heel in common. The "stiletto" refers to the metal pin that runs the length of the heel, reinforcing it. The heel is usually at least three inches (7.62 cm) high, but the sky is the limit, especially when a toe platform is added.

World War II brought a stolid, military feel to fashion, and the designers of the 1950s, such as Dior and his "New Look," took advantage of non-rationed fabrics to create billowing skirts and frothy blouses. Such creations demanded a shoe that was completely different from the chunky heels of the 40s. Shoe designer Roger Vivier responded with the stiletto.

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In the 1950s, stilettos were usually pumps or slings and featured very, very pointed toes. Actresses such as Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield quickly discovered that these mile-high heels were 100 proof sexy, and their movies of the 50s and 60s show them tripping about in stilettos. Stilettos, because of their height, seem to elongate the leg, and a woman has to walk in a different way when wearing them. Her gait changes to a hip-swaying strut, so she can keep her balance. This strut draws men like bees to honey, and many men find a woman's sexiest article of clothing to be a pair of stilettos.

Considering the fact that podiatrists have warned for years that prolonged wearing of high heels can cause foot problems like bunions and hammer toe, one would think that their popularity would have declined. However, stilettos remain a popular part of women's fashion.

Stilettos are available in stores and on the Internet, in designer labels and knock-offs. Depending on the maker, they can cost from $20 US Dollars (USD) to over $1,200 USD. One notable pair encrusted with genuine diamonds retails for over $2 million USD.

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