Western women's fashion relaxed towards the end of the 18th c., incorporating classically inspired silhouettes and soft fabrics like cotton muslin and fine linen. But the gowns weren't the only things that changed: theheeled, buckled shoes that had been in style for the previous hundred years gave way to heelless slippers and, for the most fashion-forward ladies, sandals that tied around the in the ankle in the antique manner.
These silk slippers – they would also have been called sandals – are a stylish compromise that look surprisingly modern. Hand-stitched for an American lady in the first years of the 19th c., they feature pink satin two-piece vamps embroidered with twisting flowered vines, and open sides, backs, and toes. They might have been made to match a favorite gown, or simply to provide a touch of color with an all-white ensemble.
Green satin ribbons that echo the vines lace the vamps together, as well as holding the shoe on the foot by tying around the wearer's ankles. (I hope you'll also excuse my haphazard positioning of the laces for this photo; I only had a few moments to arrange the slippers for the picture, and alas, there were no ladies about with sufficiently dainty feet to model them.) The soles are flat, stitched suede, and there are removable quilted silk insoles. These were sandals meant for informal indoor wear, and with their flat soles and adjustable lacing, they must have been as comfortable as they were stylish.
Above: Slippers/sandals, early 19th c., embroidered silk satin with suede soles. Chester County Historical Society.
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.