Shoes, 1810-1820. Gift of Miss M. Lee. T.385&A-1960, Victoria & Albert Museum.
Like my grandmother, I love shoes. Also like my grandmother, I have “problem feet.” Finding a pleasing ladies’ shoe in a size 11 narrow is no mean trick, and with arthritis and activity, fit becomes ever more important. Standing all day in ill-fitting shoes will not improve your ability to interact with the public in a pleasant way, nor will it improve your stamina, which you will need if you are cooking for a motley assortment of ‘gentlemen.’
Many reproduction historic shoes (and most contemporary shoes) just don’t fit me, so I can’t order from common suppliers and I can’t alter affordable fashion shoes. Like Cinderella’s stepsisters, the shoes don’t fit.
Robert Land’s Regency Lady’s Shoe
That means that sometimes my shoes are not quite-quite correct. For 1799-1800 events, I wear Robert Land’s 1812 shoe, which is modeled on a shoe in the V&A collection. I find Land’s lasts are long and narrow, he makes my size, and lo and behold! Last time I ordered, the shoes arrived in four weeks. My mileage has varied in that regard, and yours may, too. They aren’t cheap, but they are well-made, straight-lasted, and most importantly, they fit. (I’ve been wearing them to work this week, because their flatness is more comfortable than my modern shoes.)
Shoes, 1810-1829. Probably British. MMA 2009.300.1471a–d
Do I wish they came in silk? Yes. Do I wish he’d make ladies’ 18th century shoes? Yes. But I have a workaround for the 18th century that I debuted on Flag Day: Mules. They won’t work for every event– I don’t think these are the shoes for climbing Stony Point in July–but they have their benefits. For one thing, you can take them off. Barefoot is best (maybe not in Boston), and not having to wear stockings when it’s 80+ degrees is nice, though only permissible if you’re named Bridget and have a shirt problem.
Burnley & Trowbridge men’s mules
Burnley & Trowbridge shoes also run narrow, and their men’s mules work for me, because I like a very low, flat heel. In winter, wool stockings make up any size differential, and in summer, these flats are pretty comfortable and even walkable. They may not be perfectly correct (though documented here), but comfort plus documentation goes a long way in my book.
What I’d really like, at least for late War interpretations, are a pair of these red velvet shoes at the MFA. Latchets for buckles, low heels, and they’re red? While I wonder about the date, the features I like might outweigh any misgivings– except that I cannot afford Sarah Juniper‘s work, and I can’t make my own shoes (yet).
Pair of women’s shoes, 1780s. MFA Boston, 44.493a-b