American Duchess’ New Year’s Resolution: 18th c. SHOES

I’m going to skip through all the fluffy “as 2010 draws to a close” stuff and just cut to the chase.  I have several costuming-related resolutions, but one major big honkin’ elephant of a Resolution (with a capital R), and that’s SHOES.

18th century shoes to be exact.  I’ve been stepping around this now for a couple months or so – asked you all the answer some questions about shoes, posted many fine images of beautiful shoes, but here’s the bottom line:
In 2011, American Duchess will be introducing the first style in a line of period-accurate shoes, focusing on styles of the 18th century.  These will be *real* shoes, not costume facsimiles, so that means good design, craftsmanship, and comfort.

The drawing provided to the manufacturer, based on 1770s styles, primarily from The Met
The first style of shoe is representative of European heels c. 1750 to 1780.  They will be made of dye-able satin (like wedding/prom shoes) that can be custom dyed to any color you prefer – this means you can match them exactly to your pink Robe a la Francaise, and have a second pair to go with your teal Robe a l’Anglaise.  
The soles will be smooth leather (good for dancing).  The shoes close by latchets across the tongue, which can fasten with buckles, or be looped back for ribbons and bows.  With a 2″ heel, they won’t kill your feet after all-day fairs, and will still look cute with your 18th century ball gown.
This image from The Met was sent with the drawing as a reference for how the shoes should look, in shape, heel, and construction.
Another example from The Met, from the 1760s

Another beautiful, similar style from The Met.  All of these examples form the basis for the American Duchess design going into prototyping next week.
I cannot tell you how excited I am about these, and I am absolutely determined to make them happen!  They will be beautiful, and also affordable, customizable, and period accurate.  I have solidified plans with my manufacturer today and we will be starting the prototyping process very soon, which means I’ll have “in-progress” photos to show you as we go along.
Until then, Happy New Year everybody!!!!


  • Katy Rose

    December 31, 2010 at 1:10 PM

    I'm in heaven! I can't wait to see these. I have long narrow feet so I hope they will fit. I also hate that i can only find ugly black and brown horrid looking things. I don't wanna spend umpteen hours on an outfit only to have it ruined with ugly shoes! Can't wait!

  • Margravine Louisa

    December 31, 2010 at 6:49 PM

    Hear Hear!
    I mean Shoe! Shoe! For all of us with different size feet (mine are the long/narrow variety), Lauren, you might want to consider a form fitting insert so we don't have trouble with Sizing issues.
    Do you want pre-deposits to get this huge venture going? Congratulations – you are a true entrepeneur – and all the finance gurus say: FIND a NICHE, and fill it! (Maybe you should call this the "Entre Niche" line??? You go, Girl! lol (big hug)

  • Margravine Louisa

    December 31, 2010 at 6:51 PM

    Anyone else want to post their costuming/otherwise resolutions? Mine are a) get my blog running (started, but no posts yet) b) play my cello more c) busk with cello in historical costume (have a friend who plays flute) Anyone have a name for this magnificent duo?
    Ciao bella!

  • Lauren Stowell

    December 31, 2010 at 7:50 PM

    Thank you all for the great reception to this! Here are some more specifics, and I hope it does not disappoint too many of you – for the first run of shoes, we are doing 200 pairs, from sizes/half-sizes 6 up through 10.5. From the poll several weeks ago, this range seems to catch the most of you, but I see several of you guys are requesting larger sizes. I may no be able to do it in the first run, but will try to increase the size range for our second outing into Shoe Adventure Land :-).

    Also, I will be taking pre-orders for these hopefully starting the middle of January, when I've gotten the prototype and have photographed it, played with it, tested it, tried out the dying, etc. You will be able to choose colors or send a fabric swatch to me for custom dying, or buy them in just white, and I plan to offer other extras like custom binding, rhinestone tension buckles, and custom cockade buckles, to make them even more special.

    It's still early days yet, but I'm very passionate about this venture, and I hope to make you all giddy with shoe lust!!

  • Sandra Brake

    January 2, 2011 at 2:07 PM

    OK the sizing is a bit of a puzzle being an Aussie but from a number of sites I gather my Aussie Size 8.5 is a US size 10. Please someone correct me if I am wrong.
    I also have wide feet so how wide is the ball of the foot part likely to be? My footsies are 3.5 inches wide at the widest bit. Should I go up half a size or a size to accommodate my width?

  • Lauren Stowell

    January 3, 2011 at 7:29 AM

    Well I'm hoping the demand is high! We are only doing a run of 200, so they will be very limited. The sizes will be US lady's size 6 up through probably 11, half-sizes included. The price will be in the $100-120 range, with a nice discount to those who pre-order. We are expecting the prototype in two to three weeks!

  • Sandra Brake

    January 6, 2011 at 11:34 AM

    Margravine Louisa asked about our costuming or other resolutions. I don't normally make resolutions because I've not got a good track record at keeping them.
    However my WISHES for 2011 include having a vaguely 18th century style dress that I can wear to the Abbey Medieval Fair in July. And thanks to Lauren it looks like I will have shoes of the right kind to go with it! Not everyone sticks to the medieval theme at the fair and I won't be.
    I would also like to post regularly about my obsession with the 18th century on my blog and run the big marketing campaign I have been working on for two years at work. It's been a long time coming!

  • Anonymous

    January 6, 2011 at 3:50 PM

    I am so excited! New shoes were on the shopping wish list for me this year ๐Ÿ™‚ One question–will the fabric be natural fiber/documentable to the period? So pretty!

  • Lauren Stowell

    January 6, 2011 at 7:51 PM

    Traveller, excellent "wishes" (and not resolutions!). "Resolutions" sometimes comes with a degree of guilt-if-we-don't, but wishes are great, they can remain so or turn into goals. I think yours are very fine! I took a look at your blog, and it's quite lovely! And I'm curious about the marketing campaign: what are you marketing, praytell? ๐Ÿ™‚

    Hyaline – we're sorting out fabric now, but it's essential for the dyability that the shoes be constructed of silk ๐Ÿ™‚ I also recently read in the V&A "Costume in Detail" book that ladies shoes were made of fabric until later in the century (1770s/80s), when leather became more popular. Silk and leather soles it shall be!

  • Mikey

    January 6, 2011 at 11:34 PM

    I am very intested to get shoes to go with my recently finished 18th century dress. The dress is very dark purple so hope that that will work for dyeing. also wide feet and wobbly ankles, any chance there will be shoes with lower heel? I love to dance, but bad with high(er) heels cause of weak muscles (due to muscle disease)…
    Also are you planning to make gentlemans' shoes as well or are they readily available elsewhere?
    anyone have tips where to find…

    Ow, my and my boyfriends costume can be seen here:

  • Lauren Stowell

    January 6, 2011 at 11:40 PM

    Hi Mikey – your purple gown is simply gorgeous! The shoes will be able to be colored to match it, no worries! As far as the wideness, they are being lasted on average width lasts, but each manufacturer has a different "average," so they may very well fit you just fine. The heel height will be 2 inches. If you order and they do not fit you will be able to return them (unworn and in original packaging, of course), even if they've been custom dyed, for a full refund.

    No plans as yet to do gentleman's shoes. You might try for gentleman's 18th century styles.

  • Sandra Brake

    January 7, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    Lovely. I have always wanted to own silk shoes. What a dream! I wonder if I could embroider them? Mind you that might take me three years with everything I have on the go.
    Mikey – you and your partner look wonderfully elegant!
    My marketing campaign is very far removed from the world of the 18th century. It's a behavioural marketing campaign for an electrical safety message to prevent people injuring or killing themselves or others – I'm quite passionate about it.

  • Lauren R

    January 9, 2011 at 7:35 AM

    Traveller – you will be able to paint them with silk paints, and apply decoration/trims, but embroidering might be very hard. The insoles will be leather, and you might not be able to get a needle easily through it. You could embroidery an applique and, well, applique it on, though ๐Ÿ™‚

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