Wednesday, 27 November 2013

18th Century Shoes

I have very big feet – but I am six foot tall – and recently I treated myself to a new pair of party shoes - not sadly the gorgeous cat shoes shown above. 
Shoes from 1742 (on the left) and 1731 (on the right) 
Since I’m currently researching life in the Georgian period (for a new series of romances) it seemed appropriate to post about shoes in the 18th century.
These early 18th century shoes have it all:
embroidery, buckles and high block heels. 

When George I acceded to the throne, ladies shoes were highly ornate. They were often made from fine brocade fabric, embroidered silks or painted leather and had detail such as curved heels and latchets (straps across the instep to keep the shoe on.)

 Since the materials used were not made to withstand to mud and ordure of the street, the Georgian woman about town would slip a pair of clogs on over her shoes, in order to protect them.
This is one example of a type of over shoe.
The wearer slipped their more delicate slipper into the thong.
The metal hoop raised the lady above mud and street filth.

To ornament the shoes people added large bows, cockades, fabric flowers or jewelled buckles (real or paste stones depending on the wearer’s budget!) The buckles were detachable and stored in custom-made boxes to keep them safe when not being worn. The decoration included contrasting bindings, latchets and decorated heels.

Shoes from 1700 - 1720
Silk damask lined with kid leather.
A good example of a fashionable, Louie heel.
In the early part of the 18th century both men and women wore high heels – the height of the heel equated with the wearer’s social status. The “Louie” or French heel was popular early on – these were carved from a wooden block and curved in to flare out at the base. In the 1770’s heels were short and narrow and gradually evolved into a shape similar to the modern kitten heel. 
This shoe from around 1770- 1785 shows the smaller lighter heel,
reminiscent of a modern kitten heel.
The French Revolution in 1782 perhaps promoted a fashion for ‘flatties’ to show that everyone was born on the same level. By the 1810’s there was a stark contrast with the shoe of a hundred years earlier. In keeping with sleek regency gowns, the accompanying shoe was often light, flexible and held on with ribbons – the forerunner of the modern ballet pump.

The flat, pump type shoe, secured with ribbons peek from
beneath the hem of this elegant lady's gown.
The shoes themselves were ‘straights’ meaning there was no distinct left or right. Men were not immune to the vagaries of fashion. 
King Louis XIV of France -
heels and all
In the late 17th and early 18th century when wealthy gentlemen wore brightly coloured silks embellished with embroidery, the effect was set off with high heels.

Detail from King Louis XIV's portrait showing red heels, buckles and bows.
And finally, as  the decades passed and men's clothing became more sober, so did their shoes. Heels lowered and the emphasis moved to become more practical with shoes made of leather and ornamented with removable buckles.
At the end of the 18th century, as men's clothes
became less flamboyant, so did their shoes.


  1. Those cat shoes are to die for!

    1. Aren't they just perfect - with the cat collar strap as well!
      Thanks for visiting, Denise.
      G x

  2. Gorgeous shoes.
    I have a collection on my Pinterest boards too and I love drooling over them. All those pretty colors and ribbons and bows.

    1. Sounds interesting, Suzi. Is your Pinterest collection of historic shoes or contemporary?
      G x

  3. OMG!!! I saw some shoes over the BlackFriday weekend and these just reminds me of them!!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I don't know if you've noticed the same thing, but in the shops there are a lot of kids clothes with cute cats on - I just wish they made them in adult sizes (and larger shoes.)
      G x

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  5. Are the cat shoes 18th century? How interesting.


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