Beth Levine (December 31, 1914 – September 20, 2006) was an American fashion designer most known for her designs from the 1940s through the 1970s. Under the label of her husband Herbert Levine she was the best-known American women’s shoe designer from the 1950s to the early 1970s, and is still referred to as “The first Lady of American Shoes Design”. She was born as Elizabeth Katz in Patchogue, New York, the third of five children of Anna and Israel Katz, Lithuanian Jewish emigrants who operated a dairy farm. In the 1930s, she moved to Manhattan and found work as a shoe model, then worked her way up from a stylist to head designer for I. Miller. She served as a Red Cross volunteer during World War II. She met Herbert Levine when she applied for a job designing shoes for another shoe manufacturer in 1944 and married him three months later. He was head of the firm, and this gave her designs the chance to come to center stage. They founded a new company under the name Herbert Levine in 1948. Beth Levine described their vision for the company by saying, “We wanted to create a shoemaking niche. We were making very pretty shoes that nobody needed, but everybody wanted”. Although the company was named after publicity-savvy former-journalist Herbert, Beth Levine’s name was still featured as the primary shoe designer for their products. She was given the Coty Award in 1967 for design innovation. The Levines’ greatest influence is considered to be the re-introduction of boots to women’s fashion in the 1960s and the popularization of the shoe style known as mules. When Nancy Sinatra wore Levine boots in publicity shots for the 1960s hit song These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ demand for fashion boots leaped so much that Saks Fifth Avenue opened a special section its shoe department called Beth’s Bootery. Beth had recognized how much women admired the delicacy and femininity of high fashion shoes when she modeled them on her tiny (size 4B, European size 35) foot. She set out to create designs that would make women with average shoe sizes look more delicate and feminine in their shoes, and in the process changed the silhouettes of American fashion. She experimented with cutting away more and more of the leather to expose more and more of the foot, in the process creating shoes that were regarded as both sexier and more elegant than her predecessors. Jackie Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Pat Nixon, Barbra Streisand
Get 10% off your next order on Shop Bellable plus deals, news and fun stuff.