Sunday, January 12, 2014

Figured Silk Shoes

One of my very first blog posts was about 18th century shoes, (see Trending - 18th Century Shoes) not surprising as I had recently attend a workshop on making 18th century shoes. Since that workshop I've spent a lot of time looking at images of 1750-1780 era shoes. I've been saving images of shoes that I have found with a similar figured silk design. Some of the silk looks like little diamonds, on others the pattern looks more like stars. I'm amazed at how many pairs I've come across and in so many different colors too.

A close up look at the silk here shows the figured silk pattern to be more star shape then diamond. You can see too that these shoes are lined in linen instead of leather. They also have an extra insole of linen. Another thing I really like about this pair shoes, aside from the color and pattern, is the dog leg stitching used to reenforce the area where the uppers and vamp are sewn together. In earlier shoes you would see this covered with binding. It's interesting that the maker decided to use white thread. It would appear that this was done at the same time the binding was added.

LACMAC M.67.8.129a-b
Examples of the dog leg binding detail on earlier shoes. Oh and check out all those TINY stitches around the heels! The green pair are dated 1730–55 while the yellow brocade, according to the MET, are dated to 1760–80. I think they look more 1730s/40s with the chunky heel and silver embroidery.

MET 2009.300.1412a, b
MET 2009.300.4132
This 1780s pair from the MET has the same treatment as the blue pair above.

MET 2009.300.4749a, b
The shoe binding is not only decorative but helps give strength to the seams of the fabric uppers of the shoes. Again the mis-matched thread which convinces me that this step was in fact done at the same time the bidding was added. Why change threads colors when you already have some in your needle? Also why pay for a separate color thread? We modern seamstresses like to have everything match. Today thread is (relatively) cheap but that was not necessarily the case in the 18th century. I'm sure there would have been an additional cost if the wearer really wanted that thread to match the fabric of her shoes. It's neat to see this on more then one pair of shoes.

MET 2009.300.4749a, b
Here are two more pairs of shoes with similar fabric from the 1780s/90s. Both are from the Russian Shoe Museum. These sky blue figured silk shoes from are French with an Italian style heel. The pink pair, also with an Italian heel are listed at being from Great Britain. Note again the thread color. No dog legs binding here, as it has fallen out of fashion by this time.

Russian Shoe Museum id 1134
Russian Shoe Museum - Great Britain. c 1790s


  1. Just to throw a monkey wrench into the dog leg seam dating, I keep finding more and more that it does still happen all the way up until straps disappear- just not as commonly. And take it from someone who learned this the hard way- you need that stitching reinforcement on the uppers or they will split with wear. Also, yay shoe posts!!*&when=A.D.+1600-1800&what=Costume%7cFootwear&pos=63

  2. These are so beguiling beautiful. It's extra impressive when shoes from centuries past survive this long, given that they were an item of clothing that often got put through its paces - quite literally - so very much while in the hands (and on the feet) of the original owner(s).

    ♥ Jessica


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