All the fashion pundits are predicting that floral-patterned shoes will be big for spring. We agree - and offer these shoes from the 1730s-1750s to prove that flowered footwear is always in style.
The heeled shoe, above, is from the 1730s; only one of the pair survives. I love how it's all swooping curves, from the white leather heel to the slightly upturned, pointed toe with a metal tip. It would have been worn with ribbons or laces, now missing, and probably a pair of brightly colored stockings.
What's amazing to me is that all those swirling flowers are embroidered in tent stitch, the diagonal stitch that's used for needlepoint. This is worked at a very fine gauge – from the photograph, I'm guessing it's about 20 stitches to the inch – to create the flowered fabric of the shoe. The description suggests that this needlework was done by the owner herself, and then made up by a professional shoemaker. What a delightful stitching project that must have been!
The shoes, below, likely date from the 1740s-1750s, and in an era when most women's shoes had heels, these are flats. (For another look at mid-18th c. flat shoes, see these reproductions made by the craftspeople of Colonial Williamsburg.) Their rarity implies that they were bespoke to suit a particular lady's taste; perhaps she was an older lady who wanted the stability of a flat shoe. These shoes would have been fastened with a decorative buckle through the latchets. They are made from a costly ribbed silk fabric, lavishly embroidered with a floral design in shades of pink and green silk with silver threads. As shoes of any vintage go, these achieve that rarest of qualities: they managed to be both comfortable, and beautiful.
Unlike shoes that we've shared from various museums, these shoes are currently for sale on this dealer's site, which also has more photographs and information. If the shoes are bought by a museum, then we can hope that once they're studied, catalogued, and preserved, they'll still be available via a web site. But if they're purchased by a private collector (perhaps one of our readers?) they may disappear entirely from public view - so enjoy them now, and think of their long-ago first owners who wanted to welcome spring with a pair of flowered shoes.
Above: Embroidered women's shoe, 1730s. Below: Embroidered women's flat shoes, 1740s-1750s. Both from Meg Andrews; photographs copyright Meg Andrews.
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.