Let’s talk about shoes!

As I’m blogging today over at the Wet Noodle Posse on shoe and footcare for the RWA National Conference, I thought I’d talk about Regency shoes and provide you with some sites for your viewing pleasure and time-wasting.

Here’s a nice timeline from the University of Texas showing the progression of shoe design from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century, with the change in shape, from high-heels to flats, and in fabrics, embroidered silks to leather. The gorgeous high heels above are from the early 1700s, embroidered silk with a wood heel covered in red moroccan leather (yum). I rather fancy this nice pair of pink and black kidskin slippers from the 1790s that still have a cute little heel. You can get a closer look at these shoes and study the change from heels to flats at allaboutshoes.com.

Here are the Empress Josephine’s slippers from her 1804 Coronation. Totally flat, oh the pain, the lack of support. I hope she didn’t have to spend too much time on her feet. These are made of silk taffeta.

These shoes look old-fashioned but they are the ultimate f*** me shoes of 1800 that belonged to one Rose Marshall, wife of the upstanding Thomas Hay Marshall of Perth, who was responsible for much of the Georgian development of the city. Rose went off to have a wild affair with the Earl of Elgin (yes, he of the marbles) and was divorced in 1803. According to Captain Thomas Watson Greig, an, uh, amateur shoe enthusiast and author of both “Ladies Old-Fashioned Shoes” (1885) and “Ladies Dress Shoes of the Nineteenth Century”: Let us hope this actual pair of shoes did not carry their fair owner away to a chimerical happiness from the path of duty which appeared prosaic in the face of flattery and attention from one whose position far exceeded that of the burgher’s wife.

Some good sources for pix of shoes: The Kyoto Institute, which has this pair of shoes in the collection from the 1830s with braids of straw and horsehair, silk trimming and cockade, and lined with silk taffeta, the Bata Shoe Museum of Canada, and Shoe-Icons.

If you fancy a pair of shoes yourself, check out Burnley and Trowbridge, located near Williamsburg, VA. I rather like the look of these elegant, sturdy eighteenth-century shoes; maybe if Mrs. Marshall had worn this sort of red shoe she wouldn’t have dallied with the Earl. The site is a delight, with information on workshops, patterns, and materials–hand dyed silk ribbons, anyone?

Share your favorite shoes with us? (Amanda, remember other people may want a turn!)

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Diane Gaston
14 years ago

I LOVE these shoes!
I did find it frustrating that the timeline at the U of Texas skipped the actual years of the Regency, hopping from 1804 to 1824…

Linda Banche
14 years ago

These shoes are gorgeous! And thanks for all the great links, now saved in my bookmarks.

14 years ago

Those are lots of lovely shoes! I’m not sure I have a favorite pair–one that somehow blends style with comfort! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

Now, what makes you think I would take over a post about shoes??? (btw, those sites are fabulous! I want some of those 18th century walking shoes)

I was very happy about the recent trend toward ballet flats (despite being vertically challenged, I can’t wear high heels for long thanks to years of ballet classes that did weird things to my feet!). The flats are cute, go with everything, and are very Audrey Hepburn-ish. But I also like the flat, beaded gladiator sandals that are “in” this summer. And kitten-heel mules. And–okay, there I go blathering on about sheos again. ๐Ÿ™‚

14 years ago

Well, I’m rather boring when it comes to shoes. I’m pretty much down to just sneakers. That’s about it. Mom loves shoes. . . me, I just don’t get it. LOLOLOL ๐Ÿ™‚


Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
14 years ago

I’m with Amanda. I love me some shoes. Even though I took many years of ballet, I adore heels. I even wear heels in my ballroom dance classes. Although I bought an adorable pair of gold braided thongs from Ann Taylor Loft, and I do own a pair of leopard print ballet flats. But shoes to me are wearable art. One of the few things I liked about P.S. I Love You was that Hilary Swank’s character was a shoe designer. I would love to own a pair of Cole-Haan shoes with the Nike Air technology.

I am grateful for the fact that we now have left and right shoes, instead of the days when the shoes weren’t designed that way.

Cara King
14 years ago

I can’t walk in heels myself (unless they’re only about a half inch high), so I do like flats.

Then again, my heels are narrow, so most flats fall off if they don’t have straps, so more and more I’m with Lois, and just wear sneakers, or oxfords.


Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

“I even wear heels in my ballroom dance classes.”

Totally agree with this! Some of my favorite shoes in my wardrobe are my dance shoes–I may even buy a pair and have a real sole put on them for everyday wear. They’re so comfortable and cute, and it’s hard for me to find shoes that actually fit. ๐Ÿ™‚

14 years ago

I am deeply boring when it comes to shoes. But just to prove that it isn’t only women who obsess about them, my brother is an inveterate shoe buyer, whose collection of shoes would probably overrun the house if my sister-in-law didn’t keep him in line. ๐Ÿ™‚

The pics of historic shoes were very interesting, though.


Kalen Hughes
14 years ago

Finding shoes for re-enacting the Regency is a real pain too. It’s easy to find Medieval, 15th c., 16th c., 17th c., 18th c. and Victorian shoes. But Regency flats pretty much don’t exist as far as I can tell. Fugawee is great for 18th century shoes (I have Connieโ€™s and Marthaโ€™s).


I make do with Indian wedding shoes for my Regency gowns, but Iโ€™m not happy about it.

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

One of the few things I liked about P.S. I Love You was that Hilary Swank’s character was a shoe designer.

And I hope one of the other things you liked about PS I Love You was Gerard Butler (I liked the shoes in that movie, too..)

Louisa Cornell
14 years ago

Fabulous shoes!! I LOVE shoes!! More sites to bookmark for me.

In my current job my shoes are, of necessity, tennis shoes with really good soles. I spend a lot of time in walk-in freezers or walk-in ovens.

The conference is giving me a great opportunity to pull out my high heel collection and agonize over which pairs to bring with me.

When I was singing I wore heels everywhere – 3 inch to 6 inch heels! Not so much on stage, except when I played the title role in Berg’s Lulu. Lulu was a homicidal hooker who wore lingerie and stilettos most of the time.

I am only 5 feet tall so I LOVE the height heels give me. Also keeps me from having to hack off six inches of every formal I buy!

Now when I sang recitals I would walk out in gorgeous dresses with gorgeous shoes and as soon as the first piece started I would step out of my shoes to sing. My voice coach hated it. She would say “Don’t you think people notice when you are suddenly three inches shorter?”

14 years ago

I live in Toronto and can attest that the Bata Shoe Museum is FABULOUS. The building itself looks likr a shoebox! The really amazing thing is how many of the pairs inside inspire comments like “but..how did people WEAR those???”

Elena Greene
14 years ago

Oh, Janet, you would post about one of my favorite subjects on a day that I’m too busy to stop and breathe let alone blog!

I love shoes, have ever since I hit my 40s (I tell my husband it’s cheaper than the vintage Mini he bought for his mid-life crisis).

Oh and a tip for anyone who has trouble convincing a significant other that one absolutely must possess yet another cute pair of black heels–offer to model them in the nude. ๐Ÿ™‚

14 years ago

Elena wrote:

Oh and a tip for anyone who has trouble convincing a significant other that one absolutely must possess yet another cute pair of black heels–offer to model them in the nude. ๐Ÿ™‚

At last, a practical use for shoes!


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