It is during this period that women’s shoe styles finally came to vary more than the men’s. Women had a greater choice of style, colour, heel, and toe shape for every occasion.
The prolonged mourning by Queen Victoria after Albert’s death in 1861 popularised dark shoes as fashionable apparel. The popularity increased into the 1880s and 1890s when it was inappropriate for a woman to bring undue attention to herself in public. This required the wear of dark coloured shoes. Black has remained a popular colour for footwear ever since.
Cloth topped shoes made their appearance during this era. They were usually black or white satin with a square throat and no heel.
Boots were popular for women during this period, but toward the end, there was a change back to shoes for the primary footwear. Until 1860, the vast majority of footwear was some sort of boot. The side lace cloth top was the first seen for popular wear. This boot had a patent cap, was heelless, and could have as many as sixteen lace holes. Other styles soon followed, including cloth boots with a small heel known as Adelaides.
By the 1840’s, elastic sided boots were more popular though side-lace boots remain in fashion. By the 1860’s, the front lace was in fashion, but it was soon rivalled by the popular button boot.
In 1837, women’s shoes were wide toed, but every decade, a new style appeared. By the end of the 1840’s, the toe was rounded. Pointed toes appeared in the early 1860’s. By 1870, shoes began to have a rather broad toe, rounded at the corners.
Heels also changed frequently throughout the period. In 1851, the height had risen to three-quarters of an inch. Only ten years later, the heels reached a relatively staggering height of two and a half inches.
Overshoes were still a necessity for bad weather. They were square toed, flat soled, and matched the footwear. They were kept on by a patent or velvet covered leather strap. Some of these overshoes also had a patent cap. In 1835, the promenade clog with a patent cap and quarters appeared. This overshoe was hinged across the ball of the foot to make walking easier. Also popular were the new rubber galoshes, which were slipped on over the shoes. The galoshes were made in Brazil, where the rubber tree was plentiful, and then shipped to the United States for sale.