Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Historical Shoes

And now for something a bit different! I love historical shoes, so I wanted to do a post about them!

When I joined the SCA back in 2008, I planned to just buy all my costumes and other medieval gear as I never thought I'd be interested in doing any of it myself- I really like to shop for this kind of stuff. That means that I spent a fair bit of money looking for shoes that were "historical-esque", and would be close enough to pass muster, but not bother with the real deal.

We hear it all the time in the SCA- "it's too expensive for period shoes" or "these mary janes or black Merrells are close enough".  I now tell everyone who asks me about shoes- it's worth the investment for the real thing. I easily spent over $100 buying several pairs of shoes over the course of maybe a year and a half when I first started. Now, I spend about $60-80 per pair on my period shoes. They will last you much longer, be more durable and easy to repair or clean up, and of course most importantly, make your whole outfit look more historical.

What about comfort, you might ask? Well, the insoles of historical shoes to tend to be harder than modern shoes. I add cheap little insoles right on top of the original ones to soften my steps, plus I often stuff a bit of pillow fluffing into the toes of my shoes to cushion my toes (and keep them warmer!)- it also helps keep the ends of the shoes nicely shaped, as the main three pairs I wear have slightly longer front ends than our modern shoes.

How about some pictures? They're in order of most recent purchases to what I started with.


I got these adorable little ankle boots back in August. All leather with brass buckles. I plan to wear them with my more early period garb, like cotehardies and norse apron dresses. They are stuffed with pillow wadding right now to soften up their shape in the closet as they were boxed up a bit long and turned a bit stiff.  I just rubbed them with some leather wipes (which I swear by) and that also softened them. Cost: $65.

Oh, these fun little red shoes. They have a squared-toe, which has some pillow stuffing in them. I love the slashes and the bright color. All leather, with a bit of a German flair, which is evident in the slashes and the square toe. I wear them with gowns and kirtles, generally at indoor events, cause I don't want the pretty leather to get ruined! I bought them in early 2011 and they still look fantastic and are in great condition. Cost: $75.

 These were my first pair of real historical shoes, bought in 2010. They are simple Elizabethan latchet shoes, all leather, with some nails in the sole. I tend to wear them now with my less-fancy Elizabethan clothes (like kirtles), or when the weather at an event is bad or I know I'll be outside a lot. They get pretty muddy at events and I just rinse them under a faucet and wipe them down with a towel. Other than being a bit dirty, there's no damage to the leather. Cost: $70.

Confession time: I bought these two pairs of (faux) leather mary janes rather recently. The shape is right, the material is right, and they're perfect for indoor court events when I want my feet to look all pretty! I plan to add some silk ribbon ties and maybe even some embellishments. I have been dying for a white pair of Elizabethan-style shoes but didn't want to spend a lot on something that will get dirty. I bought both of these pairs for less than $50.


I am mostly sure I never even bothered to wear these shoes to an event. I thought they looked kinda German with the slashes and they were maybe $11. Cute but not quite right.

Here is what I started with. I bought a couple pairs of black mary janes, that were slightly better quality than the super-cheap ones we often see, with those awful orange soles. My pairs were silk and velvet. Once they got wet and had some dirt on them, they were toast. The soles broke in half after a couple days. They got hard and cracked when they got muddy. 


And something random: I bought these shoes for I think $4 at a thrift store. They have such a great 18th century shape! Once I have an 18th century gown and an event to wear it to, I'll bust these out, probably with a cockade or shoe ribbons.

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