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c1780's transitional shoes with gold embroidery

c1780's transitional shoes with gold embroidery

Reference used in this description:

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


Now this pair of shoes are not in as good condition as the other pair you will find in Poppies Cottage soon, from the same source. However, these are very interesting and hard to find, being made at a key time of transition in the fashion for ladies footwear. You will only find shoes of this shape and style over a very short space of time.

Up to the 1780's, shoes tended to all have versions of the Louis heel, whether thick and low or more slender and very high. They also had latchets, that wrap over the central tongue and fasten with ties or buckles at centre front.

During the 1780's, a change started to happen in the shape of the footwear. The latchets started to disappear and shoes became smooth fronted, sometimes with hidden gathering ties just inside the edge binding. Also, a more dramatic change came about in the shape of the heel. Shoes became remarkably low heeled, leading to the 'flats' of the Regency period. More importantly, for a decade or two, these heels were shaped like pegs, and were indeed called Peg Heels, or Italian Heels.

This lovely pair of cream silk satin shoes were once so elegant but also mark this period of historic fashion very well. They are showing transition, because the latchets are gone, being replaced by a smooth vamp [centre front], which has an inwardly pointed little tongue, this tongue being lined underneath with a delightful tiny panel of pale pink silk!

Mackenzie shows similar shoes with pointed tongues on pages 40 in brown leather and on pages 44-5 in green & white leather. However, do look closely at the heels to each of the shoes illustrated, because the brown leather pair have peg heels and the green pair have Italian heels. The transition is complete in both these examples. 

My pair have neither!


This pair at Poppies Cottage still have the beautifully elegant & quite high Loius heel that you see on Mackenzie's page 36, which are exactly the same. They are a very good example of shoes in transition.


So, to describe the shoes, they are constructed of a silk satin outer layer, with gold lace edging which is included to the centre back, covering the usual silk binding of the 'back strap'. Then there is beautifully worked gold embroidery down the vamp. The embroidery consists of gold 'purl' & spangles and is finely stitched. 

Inside the shoes are very clean for age and with 'socks' of linen and and kid leather insoles. The edges are silk bound.

The narrow Louis heels are in superb condition with just a few indentations and no wear at all with no wear at all, and are a very flattering shape at 2.5" high. The hand stitching is clear to see and a joy.


The toes of the shoes are rounded and coming to a point. They are slightly upturned.

The soles and heels underneath are in excellent condition and of typical turnshoe construction.


The silk satin is damaged, so please do read the condition report below for details. Nevertheless, the shoes are very strong and stable overall, and amazingly clean for age.


Both pairs of shoes I have to offer seem to have come from the same 18th Century lady as they are both tiny! The length is just 8" and the widest width is 2.5". She must have been very small indeed!


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    As mentioned above, the shoes are strong, stable and very clean, with one outer being just slightly darker than the other.

    The linings and inner sections are very good indeed, as are the whole of the base; the soles and heels.

    Shoe A] The cream satin at the front is quite poor, with each front side of satin coming away from the stitching at the base, and showing the white kid leather underneath. There is a clear split to the satin to one side of the vamp embroidery. There is more minor shattering to the 'quarters' [side backs], but none to the heels.

    Shoe B] The silk satin is better on this shoe with very minor wear to the quarters. The side fronts are beginning to pull away from the base but to a far less extent than with shoe A. The toe area of the vamp [centre front] around the point is worn away and this small area is poor.

    The embroidery to both shoes is excellent.

    The gold lace is good, but a little squashed from poor storage. I have gently smoothed it with my fingers and it will improve further with repeated smoothing. The area where the lace is joined is a little untidy but this is a minor issue.

    The shoes appear to have had no support for years, so will do far better if kept firmly stuffed with tissue and boxed. This will prevent any further deterioration.

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