Women's Shoes

At the beginning of this period, the heels were still quite flimsy, as seen during the previous years. By the later 1780’s, heels became more practical, suiting the sturdier leather uppers. Women did, however, have their choice of heel heights and shapes. The thin stiletto, which had been derived from the Italian heel, was still worn, as were arched wedges, true wedges, and stacked or single lifts.

The toes of women’s shoes were quite pointed at the beginning of the period, with a matched pointed tongue. In 1786-7, there was a brief fling of sharply pointed, upcurved toes. This short-lived trend is probably the result of the English craze for Chinoiserie.

Small silver clasps remain as the last hint of the previous buckle. These were frequently worn with a fringe. Rosettes are also seen, but never reach the size or elaboratness of those of earlier centuries.

Sandals begin to be worn in the 1790’s, but the open cut outs are frequently underlain with embroidered silk to hide the naked foot. At the very end of the period, in 1813, Grecian sandals appear, leaving the foot almost bare. These were low cut pumps with ribbons to cross and tie around the ankle. These were so simple to make that wealthy women took to making their own as a hobby.

Overshoes are still worn when necessary for protection outdoors. In the 1790’s, these are fashioned with the same sandal pattern as mentioned above, with a spring loop to hook around the heel. By 1808, a flat soled, hinged wooden version appears, to go with the new flat shoes. Pattens also continue, abandoning the wedge heel in favour of a flat sole, with the shape matching the shoes.