We NHG do love shoes, and this pair must have been right on the cutting edge of fashion when they were new, the must-have Louboutins of 17th c. London.
Like many extreme fashions, slap soles evolved from a useful idea. Earlier in the century, gentlemen would slip flat-soled mules over their riding boots to prevent the heels from sinking into the muddy ground of stable yards. Some enterprising shoemaker took the idea a step further, and put the flat sole beneath a pair of lady's high heels, and the slap sole was born. While the sole is connected to the front of the shoe, the part beneath the heel is not, which made for a clacking, slapping sound as the lady walked. I'm guessing the slap sole was also easier to walk in, much as a tall wedge offers more support than a narrow stiletto (first-hand NHG research at work!) But that distinctive clack on the bare floors of the time must have been gratifying indeed to the wearer, letting all around her know that she had the "it" shoes of the season, even if they were hidden beneath her sweeping petticoats.
In addition to the slap soles, these shoes feature an extended square toe that overhangs the sole (much like the current island platforms.) The shoes are made from fine white kid that never would have gone near a muddy stable yard. The heels are very high for the time, much higher than most ladies would dare. The gold braid and bright pink silk ribbon trimming has faded, and the wide pink ribbons through the latchets that would have been tied into extravagant bows are missing. But the magical allure of these shoes remains, and it's easy to imagine them climbing the stairs in Whitehall Palace.
Here are two more examples of slap soles: an Italian pair, trimmed with silver and gold lace, and another English pair said to have been a royal gift from Charles II.
Above: Slap Sole Shoes, c. 1650-1670, English. Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.