It is said that Catherine de Medici brought heels from Florence to Paris for her marriage because she was so short. The style was immediately adopted by ladies of the French court, and the fashion spread throughout Europe for both women and men.
Many shoes from this period still exist, and can be seen in museums around the world. Remains of some sixteenth century shoes were excavated from the wreck of a Basque whaling ship, the wreckage of which was found off the coast of Canada.
During the Elizabethan-Jacobean period the mode of fashion was influenced by Spain, rather than Germany as it had been in the previous period. Though the silhouette was still distorted, the stress had changed from great width to a taller, vertical line with rounded, exaggerated extensions down the body.
This period brought much change throughout Europe. The defeat of the Spanish Armada by the English fleet began the shift of overseas authority from Spain to England. Elizabeth I of England was one of the most outstanding royal personalities of all time, therefore the period has become better known by the names of the two English leaders.
Boots were worn primarily for riding, hunting and military use. They were of soft leather, often deer or buckskin, and fitted closely at the back of the heel to hold a spur. They were generally wider at the top, sometimes with a scalloped or pinked edge. Others were turned down, revealing a coloured lining.
Most men's shoes were made of leather, with slashing on the toes. The toes of the duck-billed shoes were frequently shaped into rolls and stuffed with moss. For women, delicate colours and violet were smart in leather, velvet, silk and other fabrics, though as the period continued, leather was used more frequently. In about 1570, fabrics were replaced by leather for all classes.
The Early Mannerist Renaissance period stressed an artificial distortion of the body. The emphasis was on a broad, horizontal, square silhouette for men, and a conical, angular silhouette for women. Padding of the body and slashing were the two main elements defining the fashion of this period. The clothing was excessive, unnatural, and rigid when compared to the previous period of rounded natural forms and a relaxed dignity.
The period from 1520 to 1560 was one of political realism. The rivalry of great nation-states such as England, France and Spain and the cynicism that governed their political moves led to violent acts such as the sack of Rome in 1527. The reformation was reshaping Europe's religious values, causing fear and distrust within the culture. Thus, the art was artificial rather than derived from nature.