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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