Thursday, January 23, 2014

Foul-Weather Footwear: Pattens

Thursday, January 23, 2014
Isabella reporting,

Several readers noticed the odd-looking footwear of this 1825 woman negotiating a snowy street in last week's blog. She's wearing pattens, a kind of primitive kind of protection against foul weather, and fouler streets.

According to the Bata Shoe Museum, pattens have been in use in Europe and North America since at least the 12th century. Pattens were overshoes, a thick wooden sole with a leather top that slipped on, or buckled or tied over the wearer's regular shoes, and served to lift the foot away from mud, snow, or just the general filth that collected in early modern city streets. The example, upper left, is Dutch, from the 1400s.

Pattens were primarily worn by working-class women, and when they appear in prints like the one I showed, they were meant to imply a comic, low-brow effect. They must have been awkward to walk in  - imagine the worst pair of ill-fitting platform shoes - and likely made a clumping sound, too.

Late 18th c. and early 19th c. pattens, upper right, featured an iron ring fixed to the wooden sole. In a nod to style, the soles were shaped to reflect the shape of the shoes being worn. These must have been a bit lighter to wear than the clog-like styles,  although they would have made a ringing sound as they struck paving stones.

The patten, lower right, from around 1830 is more genteel. Known as a "promenade clog" or "carriage clog", this features a neatly made upper with decorative cutwork and stitching. The sole is thinner, and is made from light-weight cork.

Like so many things, technology finally signaled the end of pattens. In the 1850s, vulcanized rubber galoshes became widely available, replacing the wooden and leather overshoe with a waterproof one.

A fashionable version of the functional patten appeared for 18th c. ladies. More often called clogs, these were a light, second sole that tied over a lady's heeled dress shoe, and usually were made of the same fabric as the shoe to form a matching set, like the ones, lower left. Since the surviving examples show so little wear, it's unlikely that they served the same heavy-duty protective service that their sturdier country-cousins saw. Instead they must have been worn for very short walks from a carriage to a door, or perhaps to create a wider sole to prevent heels from sinking into gravel while strolling a genteel garden path.

Upper left: Wooden patten, Dutch,  1400s. Bata Shoe Museum.
Upper right: Pattens, European, second half 18th c. Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Lower right: Patten, Great Britain, 1825-1835. Victoria & Albert Museum.
Lower left: Shoe & matching patten, England, 1735-1750. Bata Shoe Museum.


Helena said...

Given that they show little signs of wear, is it possible that the "light, second sole that tied over a lady's heeled dress shoe" was used merely between the house and carriage and vice versa when the wearer arrived at the other end? They could be taken off and left with the evening cloak etc. if the visitor was staying for a while, or even worn within the house if she was there on a short afternoon call.

So they would never be used for walking about in the streets (they'd do a poor job at protecting the shoe from real filth) but they'd protect the delicate fabric and sole as the shoe crossed a relatively clean pavement to and from a carriage.

Sarah said...

They reached ridiculous heights in Renaissance Italy where the 'chopines' were several inches high and became part of display; the aristocratic women literally were above the lower class ones with their ordinary pattens. Hooded and cloaked to hide their garments once they had been married 3 years they must have been quite fearsome figures.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Helena - Yes, it's likely the more elegant pattens seldom saw any heavy duty wear. Down clean steps and into the carriage would be about their limits.

Sarah - The difference between chopines and pattens are that the chopines were actual shoes, while pattens were overshoes. But yes, they were the ultimate platforms! I've written other posts about them before:

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Found these too late to include in the post - but here's an amazing pair of RED half-boots and matching pattens from 1825:

ColeV said...

Interestingly enough, the clogs I've looked at have all had quite a bit of wear, just perhaps where the shoe rubbed or the ties pulled. Just like most shoes and clothing in museums is the best of the bunch, so are the clogs. And remember, that style is what was worn here in the colonies where we don't have paved roads. The metal rings would sink right in. So, you're wearing that style on mud to prevent your nice shoes heels from sinking in or in the case of turn shoes, to keep the water from soaking through the sole as well. It doesn't wear the sole down much to walk on soft earth. I've worn fabric shoes through puddles and mud and all I had to do was brush the dried dirt off later. No damage.
While many online examples are the pretty brocade style that matches it's shoes, that's just a portion. There are plenty out there (many not displayed) that show wear and tear or are much sturdier in style. Check out this pair from the Powerhouse Museum:
About as utilitarian as it gets. The Met and MFA have similar pairs as well. I'm reproducing the Powerhouse pair and so far the thing that's obvious is that these aren't meant for everyday walking, especially not on CWs paved roads, they are rather rigid. I do really wish I had them when setting up the Marquee in the mud however, as I kept feeling my heels sink in and the water soaking through my soles!

Isis said...

A while ago I found a pamphlet on Google books about charity schools from 1712 and they had lists on the minimum of clothing the children should have. I found itinteresting that the girls were to be provided with both shoes and pattens.

It is an interesting list for the rest of the clothes as well:

ColeV said...

Also, this print shows a very well-dressed lady in pattens:
Everyone has to stay out the muck in the London streets somehow!

Mike Biles said...

Which would lead very neatly into clog dancing.

karen talley said...

I had assumed that pattens were like the Dutch wooden shoe, so I am truly grateful to you for clearing this up for me. I love the shoes of the 17th and 18th century. (When I saw Martha Washington's shoes, I wanted to hug them.) But, for all-time sexy shoes, forget four-inch shoes of today. It's the shoes of the early 1900s that I crave. But not the rubber galoshes worn in rainy weather. I think I would almost rather have the pattens.

Cate said...

Look at these very modern and very expensive shoes. They can't be all THAT uncomfortable. These look every similar to the ones the woman was depicted wearing for comic effect.

rolltidedistrict said...

weird styles but i think its comfortable to wear..

Unknown said...

I have a pair of pattens possibly from the 18th century and I'm interested in having them appraised and sold. They are in very good condition. Perhaps you could assist me. Thanks.

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