Georgian Shoes

It is time to put away the UGG boots and bring out the spring and summer shoes and sandals. It always kickstarts my thoughts about the Georgians and their shoes. One of my wrapping papers/posters has a pair of canvas and red leather shoes signed inside W. Cross. This was the maker’s hand written signature much as the shoe designers and sellers will mark their makes and designs today. Sometimes marked inside the shoes or in the case of my UGG boots, on the outside of the heel.

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In 1786, it was noted by Sophie von la Roche when she visited Oxford Street in London, that there were 24 Boot & Shoemakers (just think how many there are now!). The shoes belonging to those who lived in the early Georgian period were made of silk and kid leather. Some had silver gilt braid and this was referred to as ‘lace’. Often a silver buckle adorned the shoe and embroidered shoes and heels were popular too. Steel buckles were a cheaper option. In the late 18th century the pointed toe and tiny heel was just coming into fashion as it did a few years ago in Europe. The shoes mostly had leather soles and linen lining. Striped shoes were all the rage.

By the time the Regency period kicked in, heels had been superceded by flat shoes, with tiny or no heels. White or dyed grosgrain ribbons bound the shoe to the foot like a ballerina’s. Sometimes the leather was pierced to reveal a contrasting colour beneath.  These two styles were known as sandals. With the ability to dye kid leather in different colours, shoes were coloured and often patterened with stencilled designs. Pastel shades were favoured and often matched their outfits. By the end of the Regency period shoes were being decorated in more elaborate ways. Braids of straw and horsehair with silk ribbon and silk taffeta were in use. Tassels and bunched ribbons were extremely popular too.

There are some wonderful examples of Georgian shoes at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the Fashion Museum in Bath. During 2014 the Fashion Museum’s special exhibitions ‘Georgians’ has 40 original Georgian outfits and ensembles from the Museum’s collection. It is open from 10.30 – 5.00 every day until October when it closes an hour earlier. It really is worth a visit.

Boots were made of leather in the 18th century both for men and women. Ladies wore ankle to mid length boots in satin, kid or cotton. ‘Nankin’ boots were made from cotton fabric dyed yellow/brown with a galosh section of black leather around the base of the foot to keep out the wet.

My long time favourite pair of shoes are inspired by the Regency period and were bought many years ago in ‘Office’ shoe shop in Bath. They were made in China and are the softest leather in pearlised purple. They have the pointed toe, tiny heels and rouching beloved of the Georgians in the late 1790s and early 19th century. I still love them and wear them regularly.

modern shoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the servants wooden clogs and pattens were worn to go out particularly in wet and damp weather. Pattens were wooden overshoes mounted on an iron ring and were generally worn by countrywomen and servants. In Bath even the fashionable women wore them to protect their smart shoes. For the fashionable ladies the pattens would often match the shoe they protected.

Gentlemen’s boots were made of soft leather and the English boot was the ultimate in quality and fit. Even the French were impressed by the quality of the English boot. The fashionable top boot  was worn with breeches and buckskins and looked like a riding boot. They were knee high with a light coloured top. The design was inspired by the military boot. Working men’s boots were made of harder more durable leather or canvas. Indoor footwear for the gentleman were flat leather shoes fastened either with decorative buckles or tie laces. Not unlike the ballet pumps of today.

If you find yourself in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, try and visit Top Banana Antiques at 1 New Church Street. It is great fun and so many cabinets to look at as well as antique furniture, pictures and books. One rooms houses wonderful antique lights. I found an excellent one for our kitchen. All lights are rewired and safe. For trade buyers, Wednesday is a good day to go, as the shop opens at 7.00am and free coffee and croissants are available with many antique dealers congregating and bringing in new stock.

Visit www.topbananaantiques.com

After you have had a good wander round try lunch or tea at the nearly Cafe 53. They have just built a new conservatory and there is a garden to sit in too. The food is excellent. There are plenty of other antique shops to visit in Tetbury and don’t go home before you have visited Twig. I think this is the most stylish flower shop I have ever visited.

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