Winter is definitely here in all its February bluster, and keeping warm involves as many layers as possible. But whenever Loretta and I look at the fashionable clothes from the past, we always wonder exactly how those ladies kept warm in the days before central heating
In the later decades of the 19th c., carriage boots came to the rescue - at least for the affluent ladies who had not only the boots, but the carriages in which to wear them. Carriage boots were worn on the way to balls and dinners, protecting dainty evening slippers and keeping feet in silk stocking warm. (This furry footwarmer was another option.)
Some were worn over the slippers, while others were exchanged for shoes on arrival. The ones in collections seem to be primarily American - though I don't know if this is because they were a practical but showy fashion favored by Americans, or because it was colder in America.
The boots were designed for luxurious warmth, and usually lined with fur. The outer fabric was most often understated black velvet or silk, tied with black ribbons, and always tastefully appropriate for evening (like these.) But as the three pairs here show, even a carriage boot could make a fashion statement.
The boots, c. 1880-1890, top left, come from the Russian virtual shoe museum known as Shoe Icons. It's the undulating emerald green velvet that really makes these special. Did they match a special evening gown, or were they just made to suit a lady with flamboyant taste?
The flat wool boots, right, (from the Brooklyn Museum Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art) aren't quite as fashion-forward, but they do make a statement. The patterned wool fabric is actually a wide ribbon, most likely designed for the upholstery trade. Despite their date (1870-1890), they look very street-style modern - almost like fur-lined high-tops.
And then there are these boots, c. 1900, lower left, from the Bata Shoe Museum. These must have been the highest of high-end carriage boots. They're made of cream-colored silk brocade, and lined with matching mink. Luxury, indeed.
Think carriage boots look more cozy and chic than a pair of Uggs? One of our TNHG friends, American Duchess, sells replicas of historical footwear - and among their newest models are these 1880s carriage boots.
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.