Shoe manufacturers don’t make small-sized shoes for women any more. They say women’s feet have grown bigger in the last fifteen or twenty years. Small feet, of course, are only comparative. A small foot for a woman twenty years ago was 2 or 2½. Now it is said that there are few if any 2 or 2½ feet of narrow width, say, AA or A.
All this was revealed at a fair that the shoe manufacturers of America held in Boston about a week ago. The leading manufacturers had exhibits there, and they had observed in turn that the demand for small-size shoes for women had been declining year by year until now it had practically passed out.
One had stopped making the small shoes for women altogether. Consulting his competitor at the fair, which is an annual event with the great manufacturers, he learned that his competitor was not making the old-time small sizes either. This led to a canvass and this astonishing fact was developed:
The average size of shoes that women wear to-day is 4 to 5, whereas the average size twenty years ago was 3 to 5. The No. 2 size in women’s shoes, not uncommon twenty years ago, and almost usual twenty years before that among fashionable ladies, had entirely disappeared.
According to a 2002 article in Slate, the average women’s shoe size had gone up to 5½ in the 1940s, a 6 in the ’60s, and a 7½ in the ’70s. In the ’80s it was 8 to 8½. The article says that “the best-selling sizes at Manolo Blahnik — the Holy Grail of the shoe-obsessed — are 7.5 to 8.”
SURE SIGN OF WOMAN’S EMANCIPATION IN THE INCREASED SIZE OF HER SHOES: Because She Swims, Walks, Plays Golf and Tennis and Works for a Living, She Can No Longer Pose as Wasp-Waisted and Tiny-Footed. (PDF)
From July 23, 1911