Women's Shoes

Though it is difficult to see shoes under the long gowns of the period, we do know that women's footwear was usually a soft slipper. They were made of delicate fabrics such as brocade, silk, or embroidered leather, none of which were waterproofed. This necessitated the patten, an overshoe with a wooden sole, usually aspen, with an open leather vamp. The patten was tied with latchets onto the foot over the shoe. For the wealthy, it became common for the shoe and patten to be made of the same fabric. The patten had been a fashionable piece of footwear in the previous century, but in this century was worn only as a necessity.

The chopine, another piece of footwear with a raised sole was introduced to Europe in this period. The chopine was worn especially among the courtesans of Venice, and the fashion quickly spread to the rest of Europe, being especially popular in Italy and Spain. These overshoes were on a raised platform, and like the patten, were worn over a slipper shoe, giving height to the wearer. They were made of wood with painted and gilded motifs. Some were encrusted with mother of pearl and other stones, or covered in leather or velvet.

The chopines became so high, up to thirty inches, that when a woman went out, she needed a maidservant to help keep her upright. The Church, which usually abhorred the extremes of fashion, approved the chopines. The height impeded movement, particularly dancing, reducing the opportunities for sin. The chopines caused their own set of unique problems. The extra height the shoes added to the wearer led to complications after marriage when the bridegroom discovered he had married a very short bride. In England, the marriage bond could be annulled if the bride had falsified her height with the chopines. In Venice, the chopine was eventually outlawed after a number of women in Venice miscarried after falling from the chopines during their pregnancies.