The fall of the totalitarian leadership of Napoleon brought a sigh of relief throughout Europe. When the Congress of Vienna met to redraw the old map of Europe, they in many ways attempted to re-establish the old monarchies that existed before the Revolution. This was not possible after the events of the past twenty-five years, and so the next three decades were to be based on liberal, radical and romantic attempts to overthrow these monarchical systems.


In the 1770’s and 1780’s, boots are again seen in everyday dress, though they were worn primarily for walking and never for a formal occasion. As the period moved toward an atmosphere of revolution, there was a natural swing to boots for fashion as well as military wear. Boots were, however, generally worn only for morning. Boots such as the Hessian and the

Women's Shoes

At the beginning of this period, the heels were still quite flimsy, as seen during the previous years.

Men's Shoes

At the beginning of the period, shoes were the widely accepted footwear. The buckles which had been popular before the Revolution were discarded, and the latchet tie reappears. In the United States, it can be noted that buckles remain longer than in Europe.

Manufacture and Materials

The greatest changes in this period came with new inventions. Patent leather comes into general use in the 1790’s. This innovation coincided with craze for high gloss. This was a time when secret recipes for blacking and rumours that Beau Brummel’s valet cleaned his master’s boots in champagne circulated throughout Europe. America had not yet caught up to Europe’s level of technology, so patent leather did not begin North American manufacture until the next period, in 1822.


As with all phases of upheaval, the fashions changed greatly in the years just before and during the French Revolution. Before the Revolution, women were still wearing corsets, padding, boning and several layers. By the end, they were dressed in simple chemise dresses of the softest fabrics. For men, the change was equally as great with a shift from breeches and hose to long trousers. All of these changes moved away from the symbols of aristocracy to the symbols of the middle classes.


The rediscovery of Herculaneum and Pompeii in the mid-eighteenth century caused a passion for art based on classical antiquity. This was not a revival of Greek or Roman principals, but a dream of the antique – a refined use of classical ornament placing a great emphasis on horizontal and vertical lines. At the same time, an interest appeared in romantic art, which eventually included all art that appealed to the emotions.


Boots were worn chiefly by men, but women could wear them for riding. A calf-high kid, front-laced boot was quite fashionable for women. The toe was in line with shoe fashions, and the boot usually had a feminine, Italian heel.

Women's Shoes

The toe of the women’s shoe was sharp and upcurved at the beginning of the period. By the 1760’s, it had become blunter. At the end of the period, the toe was no longer upcurving, and had a matched pointed tongue.

Men's Shoes

At the end of the 1720’s the domed toe died out and was replaced by a point. At first the toe was sharply pointed and turned up, but by about 1740, the majority again became blunter. Again in the 1770’s, the toes became sharper.

Heels continued for men’s shoes but in contrast to the previous period the height dropped to a mere one-inch.