A Cinderella Moment…

I don’t subscribe to the female stereotype of adoring shoes but I challenge anyone not to be excited, or just a little bit intrigued, by the rows and row of boxes in the Costume Curator’s stores at Berrington Hall.

Women’s shoes in the 18th century were predominantly made of fabric. The material was often patterned dress silk although it was not usual to choose a gown and shoes in matching material. The fabric side straps (called latchets) would be pinned with a metal buckle (of which Charles Paget Wade collected many and I shall be blogging about shortly!).

It’s easy to see how the embellishment of a sparling buckle could enhance any shoe, take these mustard yellow satin shoes from the early 18th century (dated 1730s-50s). They are attention-catching regardless owing to the the popping acid colour that has not diminished in vibrancy over the centuries.

My favourite pair are these pink satin mules with silver metal embroidery. They are simply beautiful objects to behold…and not unfamiliar in shape to modern eyes. The best part of these shoes, and all costume in fact, is seeing the wear and tear that could only have been created by the shoe being worn and not, for once,  the usual agents of deterioration National Trust staff are used to.

On discovering a charming book (Selbie, Robert. The Anatomy of Costume, 1978) about costume the other day it amused me to discover the description of 18th century ladies approach to footwear;

‘Most fashionable women, who did not set foot out of doors unless they had to, had shoes of silk, velvet and satin…Madame du Barry…complained to her shoemaker that her shoes had worn out too quickly. He replied “But Madame, you must have walked on them!” ‘

I would take the anecdote and information with a pinch of salt as the Georgian’s had a clever solution to maintaining the delicate fabric of their footwear; leather clogs! A wonderful example exists in Killerton’s vast costume collection (see below).

A similar brocade shoe from roughly the same period (1730’s) exists in the Charles Paget Wade collection stored at Berrington Hall, sadly its matching clogs long gone.

Another interesting feature of Georgian footwear was the significance of the red leather heel. The red heel was indicative of aristocratic nobility in the French courts. The fashions were adopted in England during this period but Costume Curator Althea Mackenzie informs me it was much harder to police in Britain and eventually lost its kudos as a signifier of fashionable privilege…until Louboutin revived the tradition of course 😉

These raspberry silk heels are dated around the 1740s.

In clashing contrast the conservation record states that the emerald green damask silk has been dated by Natalie Rothstein around 1742-44.

And finally the prettiest but slightly anachronistic sets of Georgian ballet pumps that have been adapted for fancy dress…by Charles Paget Wade and friends? Who knows! The flat shoe of the late Georgian period is indicative of the impact the French Revolution, and the institution of the Reign of Terror, had on fashion. Although the flats pictured are of a later date, the fashion for flat shoes were adopted in the last decade of the eighteenth owing to their working class affiliations; they infer the necessity of walking as opposed to footwear indicative of those who could afford travel by carriage.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. kathleenlynagh says:

    Reblogged this on Kathleen Lynagh Jewelry and commented:
    Never really thought about shoes from the past, until now. Just had to share. They are beautiful. If only they could talk. KLH


  2. Suzi Love says:

    Reblogged this on Suzi Love's Weblog and commented:
    Gorgeous shoes from the collection at Berrington Hall.
    ‘…I challenge anyone not to be excited, or just a little bit intrigued, by the rows and row of boxes in the Costume Curator’s stores at Berrington Hall.’

    Liked by 1 person

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