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97/185/2 Shoes, pair, womens, Kabuki, satin / leather / wood, designed by Beth Levine, labelled Saks, United States of Ameica, c.1964. Click to enlarge.

Beth Levine Kabuki shoes

Made c.1964
Beth Levine (nee Katz -1914-2006) was America's most important shoe designer from the 1940s until the 1970s. She was the daughter of a Jewish Lithuanian immgrant farmer on Long Island. Levine began her career as a shoe model with a tiny size 4B foot. She rapidly rose to designer and was employed by many high end New York shoe manufacturers. When she met her husband, Herbert, in 1946, she took his name professionally because shoe design was a male dominated industry. Beth Levine was responsible for many inventive designs such as backless and topless shoes, stretch vinyl boots without zippers and introduced the stiletto heel to America. Her clients included Jackie Kennedy, Ava Gardner, Marlene Dietrich, Nancy Sinatra (These Boots were made for Walking), Barbra Streisand, Marilyn Munroe and Joan Crawford. In 1967 and 1973 Levine won the prestigious Coty American Fashion Critics' Award. Her company manufactured her designs until 1975 but she continued to work with prestigious New York designers long after. She died of lung cancer at the age of 91.

(Information supplied by Helene Verin)

Summary

Object No.

97/185/2

Object Statement

Shoes, pair, womens, Kabuki, satin / leather / wood, designed by Beth Levine, labelled Saks, United States of Ameica, c.1964

Physical Description

Pair of womens slip on shoes with gently pointed toe, platform sole with sculptured upturned wedge heel. Shoe consists of uppers of red silk satin in one piece. Lined with white kid. Sock of gold leather stamped in white with inscription "SAKS/FIFTH AVENUE/Fenton last/PATENT PENDING". Heel and sole of black lacquered wood. Platform, boat shaped sole tapering in from edges of uppers. Heel a solid, upturned "U" shape.

Marks

Marked: 'Patent Pending/SAKS/FIFTH AVENUE/Fenton Last'.

Dimensions

Height

110 mm

Width

80 mm

Production

Made

c.1964

Made

c.1964

Notes

The pair of shoes are representative of fashion from the 1960s, a period when fashion design was particularly innovative. The shoes are by New York shoe designer Beth Levine whose designs are noteworthy for their one-of-a-kind inventiveness and use of unconventional materials. Beth Levine's innovations in shoe design continue the work of designers working earlier in the 20th century such as Perugia, Ferragamo, and Vivier.

The shoes were made in limited numbers and called 'Kabuki', as Levine's inspiration for their design came from traditional Asian footwear. Similarities in form, materials and colour can be seen in shoes in the collection such as a Japanese Geta with a red upper and an elevated lacquered wooden platform and Manchurian slip on shoes with pedestal bases. The shoes have a streamlined aerodynamic quality and appear to balance or hover on a circular shaped heel. By shaping the heel as an inverted wedge, Levine has been influenced by the innovations in heel shapes by designers such as Andre Perugia, and Salvatore Ferragamo who invented the wedge shaped heel in 1936. The museum has a pair of wedge heeled mules by Ferragamo.

Beth Levine and her salesman husband, Herbert, who she married in 1944, were leaders in shoe design throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Levine won a Nieman Marcus Award in 1954 and the Coty American Fashion Critics' Award in 1967 and 1973 for her contribution to the shoe trade. Levine retired in 1976.

The shoes were made in America for Beth Levine under the label of 'Saks Fifth Avenue Fenton Last'.

Source

Credit Line

Purchased 1997

Acquisition Date

3 July 1997

Cite this Object

Harvard

Beth Levine Kabuki shoes 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 28 May 2020, <https://ma.as/156600>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/156600 |title=Beth Levine Kabuki shoes |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=28 May 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

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