Thursday, February 4, 2010

Half-boots and Dancing Slippers--
Regency Footwear

Ladies love shoes! And ladies of the Regency were probably no different than those of the 21st century. After all, who could dislike dainty slippers like these, from a Gillray drawing (a rather rude one of the three Graces in a high wind!)

These examples from an illustration of 1829 are similar but are designated as 'Russian' shoes.

A more complex take on the simple slippers are these examples laced up the ankle with ribbons particularly made, I think, for the shorter summer gowns of the 1810s.

Dancing slippers were little different, but may often have had a silk sole as well as upper, the better to slip across the ballroom floor. There are recorded cases of ladies completely shredding their dancing slippers in one evening.

Most shoes of the Regency were like these slippers: silk or silk satin, with straight soles of soft leather and no designation of right or left foot. Some shoes however were of stenciled leather like these charming c. 1810 examples in pink from the Museum of Welsh Life.

The Museum describes them thus: "pair of pink glace kid slippers with stylized pattern of black floral moverall; pointed toe; very low heel covered with pink leather; pink silk cord ties single pair of eyelet holes at front; narrow ribbon covers seam". This pair of c. 1829 green silk satin shoes are from the same museum, described as "with leather soles, flattened at toes; no heel; green ribbon binding and laces; gathered satin decoration across front; left and right the same; inscribed: GODFREY Ladies Shoe Maker No 25 New Bond St London".

The ladies' shoe maker noted above may have operated from a shop like this:

And his trade card or advertisments would have been similar to this:

Both of these illustrations come from the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera at the Bodleian Library.

I have always been fascinated by the comments about 'half-boots', and I have always had trouble visualizing them. I finally found some illustrations of original, surviving half-boots. These are available for sale at Vintage Textile and are late Regency, approaching 1830. Those on the left are of ivory linen and on the right they are of green damask with leather toes and soles. Both pairs lace on the inside of the ankle; I did see one illustration elsewhere with lacing up the front of the boot.

One thing I have not found, and would love to, is an illustration of a lady's riding boot. Has anyone seen such a thing?

I wish I could don a pair of pretty shoes today but I think I shall have to make do with my snow boots, again, and for the next month or so. Oh well, my blue tweed shoes with the kitten heels await the spring, and so does my burgundy leather pair with the criss-cross straps, and…

What do your favourite shoes look like?

Til next time,


P.S. Thanks so much to Linore Burkard for an entertaining and informative post on Princess Charlotte last week. It was a pleasure having you here, Linore!


Janet said...

They (whomever 'they' are) say fashion circles around - what's in style at one time, will be in style at another time. Your post and pictures remind me of the fashion craze of ballet slipper-type shoes right now! And the tapestry ones designated "Russian Shoes" are very similar to a pair I just bought in the fall. Interesting.

I used to be a shoe fanatic - but now, my shoe collection is all about running shoes. I have at least a half dozen - very comfortable, very practical. I hope I'm not becoming 'comfortable' and 'practical'! I also adore slippers - the fuzzier, the better. But people frown upon wearing them out for all occasions.

Great post, Lesley-Anne :)

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

Ah, slippers--nothing like a cuddly pair of slippers and a cold winter day to enjoy them!

Thanks Janet...

Shannon said...

I'm a hat person rather than a shoe person. I often splurge on buying myself new hats though having said that I've got about a half dozen shoes. My favorites are more from the 1940s styles, though.

Also, reports of women shredding their silk slippers at dances? Now that's interesting.

Le Bombette said...

From the little bit of research I've done on shoes of the period it seems to me that a lady's riding boot was much like a mans or it could also be a lace up boot (not half-boots) that comes above the ankle. I think maybe in Mrs. Hurst Dancing...they mention the girl's grabbing whatever riding boots were available from the stables...meaning they kept several and they didn't necessarily need to fit...sort of like galoshes. I'm sure though this wouldn't have applied to ladies of fashion. :)

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

I had not noticed that comment in 'Mrs. Hurst Dancing'--very telling. I think the riding boots must have been like men's boots--as you say, certainly not half-boots. I would so much like to see a picture of a pair!

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