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300 Years of Shoes, the collection - research

As I became quite enthralled to the making of shoes I began a visual timeline, at first just for myself, as a visual aid, for reference. Please note that though this post is dated 2018 it is ever changing and being added to or updated. I have found that posting some of the images I source allows both myself and others to scan through them easily. So I am continuing to add images of historical shoes I find interesting in order to better chart the changes of fashion of shoes across this time period. As in all my posts I'm including a source reference or copyright recognition wherever I have it.

The result of this research is that I am making individual shoes (from paper and thread) for The 300 Years of Shoes collection and this will likewise remain an ongoing project. I have decided that in most instances I will only make one shoe from what might otherwise be a pair. When that is the case it will be the left shoe, that is, a lost left shoe. This idea is meant as a pun, applying both of it's meanings to the word 'left' and imagining (aka Cinderella) that the single shoe you can see in each case is the one that has been left behind, for those of us who come later to find, by its imaginary owner, who once walked through a particular period in history.

It's interesting to note that in Disney's "...animated film, Cinderella loses her left slipper, while in the live-action film, she loses her right slipper..." -

From what I can tell in the original Grimm's fairytale which shoe it is that she loses is not stated.

Five of the first pieces to be added to this collection were due to be first exhibited alongside The Regency Wardrobe in May 2020. Those 5 are: 1720 - The Green Peafowl; 1795 - The Hummingbird; 1830 - A Bird of Paradise; 1890 - The Dove; 2020 - The Kingfisher. Each has a blog post and/or web-page devoted to it so please have a look.

There are also many yet to come, some of which I have half formed in my mind even as I write this so please check regularly, you never know when another will fall off a foot and find its way there.

In the mean time, please scan the images below for a very potted history of 300 years of shoes:

Late 17th-early 18th c - Museum of Applied Art and Science


I love this period and am fascinated by the fact that by the bginning of the next century heels would be mostly lost

1760s - Bata shoe museum

1770-1790 - Manchester Museum

1780-1800 Manchester Museum

1795-1805 - Manchester Museum

1795-1805 - Lacma Museum

1790-1805 - Brooklyn Museum

1790-1810 - Manchester Museum

1800 V&A

I was reminded of how I'd heard at a talk given by Zack Pinsent that a Regency man might have worn a bright pink frockcoat or a pokadot stocking when I aome across this bright pink pair of ladies shoes with a stencilled dot motif

1800-1810 - Manchester Museum

While I'm making The Regency Wardrobe I have to consider of course Regency shoes. It seems that the most characteristic shoes of the Directoire/Empire/Regency period resembled a modern ballet slipper (and were sometimes fastened on in the same way, with ribbons wrapped around the ankles). It was a simple flat pump with a leather soles appropriate for light-duty outdoors use; made of satin or kid leather or occassionally velvet with decorative ribbons also, or rosettes. There were still backless or enclosed slip-on shoes with a slight heel and half boots - an ankle boot made of sturdy leather for outdoors or velvet/satin for evening - but the fashionable women's shoes of the end of the eighteenth century/early nineteenth century were also less cumbersome than previous styles; free of buckles and generally lacking any sort of high heels.

Stockings usually white cotton or silk, opaque

Pattens were a metal contraption strapped onto the lady’s shoes in inclement weather, to lift her above the mud, snow, or rainwater in the street.

1800-1810 - Brooklyn Museum

Following the French Revolution (1792) shoe heels began to disappear, their demise was politically motivated, the message being that everyone was born on the same level.

1800-1810 - The Met Museum

1810-1820 - Manchester Museum

1812-1820 - V&A

The flat shoes of the early 19th century made it easier for shoes to be made "Early in the Georgian era the fashion for high heels (as much as 3″) made it difficult for cobblers to make “paired lasts” for left and right shoes. The “last” of the shoe is footprint of the shoe, which can be straight or without a left or right side. Many of the 18th and 19th century shoes and boots were produced on straight lasts. As the person wore the shoes, they “molded” to the foot, creating a left side and right side over time". – The Bootmaker

1830-1850 - Manchester Museum

"By 1830, the square toe had come into fashion. An efficient industry manufacturing women’s silk and kid footwear was developed in France in the 1830s using piecemeal workers. Their shoes were created for speculative sale in shops. The shoes were narrow but their construction was light and forgiving, allowing the wearer’s foot to splay over the edges of the sole. Sturdier leather shoes and boots (for both men and women) were still made to order by a local shoemaker"

1840 - Killerton House Fashion Collection

1800-1943 The Met Museum

With fans, the decorative arts and even interior design, in respect of The Prince's Pavilion in Brighton, so heavily influenced duing the Regency by The East I couldnt't resist including a pair of women's shoes from China; one fashion I think every Western woman can be glad we never adopted.

1890 The Met

1900 - Pinterest board

1890-1920 The Met

1890s The Met

1892 the Met

1915 - Manchester galleries

1920 - Italian with wood and leather



1960s - From Pinterest boards


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