Thursday, August 29, 2013

Colonial Revival

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries there was a revival of 18th century styles. Shoes were certainly not exempt from this. There are dozens of pairs out there clearly based in those earlier fashions. Some was just due to the mode of the time, others were created during a time when shoemakers were desperately trying to prove how much finer hand-work was than machines. They not only harkened back to the detail stitching, but the shape and style as well. While it's all wonderfully fascinating, it seems to have created a problem. I've seen many examples on auction sites and even in museums labelled as "18th century", while they're clearly of a much later origin. And sometimes, they sadly get sold for high prices to unknowing bidders.
So, here's a celebration of the distinct Colonial revival shoes as well as a description of how to tell the difference from the originals!

1870, Shoe Icons Museum

Shoe, French, ca. 1775-85. Made of leather and wool cloth, embroidered satin ribbon trim.

1880s-90s, Shoe Icons Museum
Shoes, 1760-70, Bata Shoe Museum
1770, Nasjonalmuseet      1760s, Bata Shoe Museum

I chose the two pairs above as good examples since they have such close original sister shoes.
What you can't see in these images is the easiest way to spot a revival shoe (or a misdated one). Right/left lasting. Yes, straight shoes become right/left, but their soles will never look anything but symmetrical. If it's right/left, it's probably after 1860.
The slight toe spring seen in late 19th century shoes is also a good give away. Originals tend to have a straighter line going from the back of the heel to the toe and don't lift very far from the ground in front.

1886, Shoe Icons Museum
Sometimes it's matching up the fabric to the style. By the time buckles and straps fall from fashion, so does brocade fabric.

1885-99, Met Museum
Outside of the obvious buttoned strap, the tongue shape and embellishment is a good clue.

1900-1906, Shoe Icons Museum
Modern brocade fabric, seaming, lack of straps, and a very shallow heel (under the arch).

1913-18 Pietro Yantorny

1914-19 Pietro Yantorny

Evening pumps
1925-30 Pietro Yantorny

Pair of man's shoes
Late 19th/ early 20th century
Mens shoes, particularly red heeled "court shoes", are seemingly more subject to misdating than anything else I've seen.  You can't look to the fabric for clues, being always out of black leather. However, some of the previous notes will help. Right/left lasting is still valid. Oversized tongues and other artistic exaggerations (like these straps) are a huge giveaway. Those massive tongues are not accurate to the 17th or 18th centuries. They were large, but not that big!
And while this square toe shape is "period accurate", many court shoes from the 19th century have wider and less tall square toes with rounded corners. 
MACHINE STITCHING. It wasn't invented until 1846 for regular sewing.
If you can see the bottom of the soles, look for the attachment method. Pegging on the sole is done later, while stitching (often hidden in a cut channel) is earlier. Some of the exhibition shoes are stitched, however. Metal tacks on the heels or glued on soles are much the same.

1761 Court shoes in 1728 style, Powerhouse Museum
Stitched sole and pegged heel construction when you look underneath. Dog-legged seams and randed construction. Even the insect holes in the leather covered heel (apparently these moths are only found on Continental Europe and their larvae eat into the wood and leather). This is one of the only pairs of court shoes I feel confident pointing to the online images and saying 18th century. Many of the others have...issues...I'd like to address in person. The only pair I've handled so far ended up having a 19th century label and bottle green leather insole. Dead give aways you often can't see online.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


In the Spring I met up with Gwendolyn in Berlin after she had spent two months there studying German. We took a week tour through the country by train and I could spend a few posts on every stop. I'll try to keep it short for the point of the blog, however. There is at least one great costume from the trip, though it was made earlier in the year.

Remnants of the Berlin wall.

Wandering can produce the best things- like a large cemetery dating back to the 18th c.

We attended a 1920s event one evening, complete with live music and burlesque show. First we took pictures in front of our epic hotels front door (if you stay in Berlin I highly recommend Art Hotel Connection).

It's a classic Robe de Style based on an original. I had the lace already and it needed a new gown to build around it. Finding a similar style lace on a gown for sale on Etsy, I thought it would be a perfect use.

Aside from the antique lace scallops, the rest of the gown is made up of silk chiffon and charmeuse with hand-dyed silk ribbon flowers. I also made up the necklace and a hairpiece to match.

The little panniers are extremely simple versions of 18th c. style made from the chiffon and German plastic boning.

Turns out the next day was a national holiday and the train ride home was just a little festive!

After a bit of train travel we visited Fussen and Neuschwanstein castle. Once it's cold enough to wear this new coat again I'll do a post about it. I found the fabric years ago and ear marked it to copy the coat Judy Garland wears in For Me and My Gal. I finally got to it!

Next stop of Rothenberg ob der Tauber. My mothers maiden name is Rothenberger and we've had a drawing of this corner in our house my whole life.

If you think it's going to be picturesque, you're only half-right.

Lastly, Heidelberg for one day. Our hotel room was Vienna themed (each room is a different city).