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.
In addition to three First Ladies, Jackie Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson and Pat Nixon, the clientele also included movies stars such as Bette Davis and musicians like Barbra Streisand. Beth Levine worked to ensure that the wives of former presidential rivals John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon never ran into each other at her studio, and once frantically had to rearrange their fitting schedules when she discovered their visits would overlap
To overcome buyer skepticism upon their introduction, Levine ran across the lobby of a major New York hotel wearing the Spring-o-lator mules during a reception during a large apparel convention, proving dramatically that the elastic strips prevented the shoes from coming off. The design -- and the publicity stunt -- was so successful that the Levines spent significant amounts of both time and money the following two decades defending their patent on the concept.
Art and sole; Bellevue Arts Museum puts its best foot forward with 'Beth Levine: First Lady of Shoes'.(NW Arts&Life)
Feb 28, 2010; Byline: Moira Macdonald; Seattle Times arts writer At the new show at Bellevue Arts Museum, "Beth Levine: First Lady of Shoes,"...
FACES ; ACCESSORIES COUNCIL DEALS ANOTHER ACE ... BETH LEVINE HONORED ... AUCTIONING UGGS ... FERRAGAMO'S BEIJING BASH.(ACE Awards )(Brief Article)
Nov 14, 2005; Byline: Brian Russak Talk about an A list. From Jessica, Mary-Kate and Ashley to Tom, Oscar, Kenneth and Diddy, the Accessories...
4 PICKS: PAYING TRIBUTE...A LEG UP...LA VIE EN ROSE...(Bellport-Brookhaven Historical Society to host exhibition on Beth Levine)(Hue introducing ankleless socks for ballet flats)(Michel Tcherevkoff's photograph album "Shoe Fleur: A Footwear Fantasy")
Jun 18, 2007; Byline: Barbara Schneider-Levy, Michelle Baran, Lindsay E. Sammon Paying Tribute This summer, escape from the city with a trip...