Monday, December 1, 2014

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Introducing "Victoria" Carriage Boots

Victorian Carriage Boots Reproduction by American Duchess
Today's post is all about carriage boots. I'm maybe a little TOO excited about our new "Victoria" Carriage Boots...I'm...well...wearing them right now. They went to Starbucks with me this morning, and now I don't want to take them off. I might sleep in them.

Carriage boots as modern fashion
:::cough::: Anyway...

Carriage Boots!

Carriage boots, sometimes called sleigh boots, were a fashionable but also essential item for chilly ladies in the 19th and 20th centuries. Worn while traveling, carriage boots were most commonly overshoes, tied on over a lady's delicate indoor-only shoes, to protect from the elements. We have examples of carriage boots all the way back to the early Victorian period, and by the 1870s, carriage boots took on the form they were to maintain for the next 70 years.

Albany Institute of History and Art, 1875-85
The Met, 1880-95

Carriage boots were commonly black velvet trimmed in fur, but they also came in other colors, such as pink, tan, and this psychedelic green:

Shoe Icons, 1880-1890

A stunning pair of peach brocade and ivory mink carriage boots - Bata Shoe Museum, c. 1900
The fur could be any color, and was typically rabbit or mink. Ribbons tied across the tongue of the boots, creating a fluffy appearance and allowing for adjustability.

A pair from eBay with grey fur (listing no longer available)
For our carriage boots, I first found a reference pair on eBay, which was invaluable when figuring out how to reproduce them. This original pair, impossible to accurately date, were overshoes made by B. Altman & Company, a New York department store with a long history starting in 1865.

One of the trickiest questions to answer was how the boots laced. Most of the originals I looked at had four grommets on each side, but the ribbons didn't tie over the fur trim. The example pair I found didn't come with any ribbons, but I experimented until finding the proper way to lace them, which we translated to our "Victoria" boots.

Victorian Carriage Boots by American Duchess
Grosgrain ribbon ties on "Victoria" Carriage Boots cleverly tie under the fur trim.
As always, we've made every effort to maintain the historical accuracy of our reproduction boots. The Victorias are not overshoes, but regular boots with a wedge heel - both voted on by you guys, and verified of their existence in period in Nancy Rexford's "Women's Shoes in America, 1795-1930." The next deviation from the original was to use mouton (sheepskin) for the fur trim, instead of a fur-trade option, or an environmentally-destructive faux fur option.

Mouton trim and quilted lining.
The result is a charming recreation of a very interesting and accurate winter boot that works for everything from early bustle period through to the 1920s and 30s, which for women's fashion is an astonishingly long time!

Victorian Carriage Boots by American Duchess
"Victoria" Carriage Boots on actual human legs
If you'd like a pair of your own "Victoria" Carriage Boots to wear with your costumes  or just with jeans, head over to AmericanDuchess.com to learn more.
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10 comments:

  1. Exciting! I've been watching your obsession with carriage boots on pinterest for years now, waiting to see the American Duchess version! These are gorgeous!

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    1. Haha, oh, I didn't think anybody noticed those midnight pin-a-thons :-)

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    2. Oh, it's hard not to notice the midnight pin-a-thons when you log on the next morning and feel morally compelled to repin ALL OF THEM. =D So beautiful.
      I pre-ordered these and they should be at my house by the time I get home for Christmas - can't wait!

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  2. I do want to say how my reaction to these was:

    -- OOH SHINY CUTE BOOTS
    -- ... oh but it's got fur. it's probably got stupid fake fur
    -- (*2 mins of thinking about plastics and out-gassing)
    -- MOUTON?!
    -- (*ecstatic glee ensues)

    Thank you so so so much for finding a compromise that I didn't even know existed!

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    1. You are most welcome. It was a big question and we did a poll about it awhile back. I was really bummed about the fur or faux fur options too, but the mouton has turned out to be a really nice solution that looks great and isn't bad for the environment. :-)

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  3. They look so warm and comfy, they would be perfect for this nasty winter weather :( I mean, I love winter, but I hate my toes freezing. Anyway, are you going to wear your Russian coat as an everyday outfit? That would totally rock!

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    1. Despite living in the desert, I wore these in the rain yesterday and they survived, though the leather soles of course got wet. I put the little rubber stick-ons on, but if I were going to wear them regularly in wet conditions, I would have the full rubber soles put on.

      And yes, I am going to wear this coat all winter as regular fashion!

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  4. How should we waterproof these? I was thinking waterproofing spray for the velveteen and snoseal for the soles. I'm dying to wear mine but have only been able to put them on indoors because outside has been snow, ice, salt and wet ick all winter. Surely ladies used these to go to a from a carriage as well?

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  5. How should we waterproof these? I was thinking waterproofing spray for the velveteen and snoseal for the soles. I'm dying to wear mine but have only been able to put them on indoors because outside has been snow, ice, salt and wet ick all winter. Surely ladies used these to go to a from a carriage as well?

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