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C1770-80's shoes with latchets & Italian heels

C1770-80's shoes with latchets & Italian heels

Reference used in this description:

'Shoes & Slippers from Snowshill' Althea Mackenzie. The National Trust 2004. [Technical shoe part descriptions also provided by Mackenzie]


'Heels to bear the precious charge

More diminutive than large

Slight & brittle, apt to break

Of the true Italian make'

Gentleman's Magazine, 1776. [Quoted in Mackenzie, 2004/44]


When I first saw this pair of shoes, that came from the same source as the cream silk pair and, I am sure, belonged to the same Georgian lady, I thought they were earlier because of the latchets.

However, one look at the heels and I realized that they are actually from around the same transitional time, perhaps slightly earlier, and with the opposite features we see on the cream pair! It is almost as if she didn't quite knew how the fashion would go, and so 'hedged her bets' by using opposing features!

As with most of the ladies fashions of the time the little rhyme above, found in a gentleman's magazine in 1776, gently makes fun of the new style of 'Italian' heel, also called a peg heel at the time. [There are slight differences between the two, the Italian style as in these shoes, having a distinct slope of the sole, but both types having lower peg-like appearances.]

This pair of shoes retain the latchets with a deeply pointed tongue below and require buckles to keep them fastened on the foot. As you can see, this pair came with buckles of perhaps glass/paste on metal bases. They are very attractive, but I know very little about buckles. My best guess is that these are 19th Century - they seem to be larger & a different shape to the 18th Century buckles I have seen on ladies shoes. But I could be wrong, and they do make a lovely finishing touch to the shoes.

The severe points of the domed toes and the heel shape & height of 1.75" make these shoes exactly like the green & white shoes in Mackenzie, on page 44 of her book, but clearly the latchets are different. These shoes also have the same punchmarks at the toe and waist of the soles as described by Mackenzie, and mine have an additional feature of the sole which is a stripe mark between the waist and heel, behind the punchmarks. Don't you just love to find these details?

The shoes have the usual silk binding all around the edges, including the latchets and then to the back strap [centre back seam on each shoe].

Inside, the quarters are in white kid leather. The inner sole is in quite fine linen. There are inner 'straps' of quite heavy linen to support the latchets and then the whole of the inner fronts of the shoes are also in coarse linen [for strength again, I would think]. The latchets are lined in white kid leather which has been pieced by buckes to fasten them.


This pair of shoes are in better condition than the other, cream pair, but there is naturally still some wear, so please do read the condition report below.


So good to find shoes illustrating modes of 18th Century history. Just as tiny as the first pair but measuring 8.5" to accomodate the pointed toes I think, they are also just 2" wide at the widest area of the sole. 


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    Starting with the inner shoes, they are less clean than the cream pair inside, one having a soft stain and both having tiny black marks, but neither are at all unpleasant and are far cleaner than many 18th Century inner shoes I have seen!

    As mentioned above, the white kid lining of the latchets are punctured from buckles [not the present one's, but earlier buckles] and marked, but still whole.

    The shoes are both very sound and strong. The heels and soles are excellent. The satin covering of the heels is excellent, as is all the silk binding.

    Each shoe has a split to one side of the latchet, where it sits on top of the shoe. One split is quite small, the other longer, perhaps 1.5".

    One of the shoes has a narrow split to the centre front, only visible when stretched. 

    Elsewhere on both shoes, there are wear area's, where the silk has rubbed and lost it's warp, whilst the weft remains. However, these lines of wear have not broken through to the shoe linings, and are difficult to see on the black fabric.

    The buckles, as I said in the description, are probably later than the shoes but are attractive in their own right and may have their own value. I think they may be glass/paste on metal, and they certainly retain their sparkle! One of the larger stones has a piece broken off but apart from that, I would say they are in very good antique condition.

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