18th c. Shoes: The Evolution of Our Heels

I have been itching to update you with how things are going on the prototyping of the new American Duchess 18th century shoes.  I haven’t done so because there has been a lot of back and forth with revisions and design changes, getting things just right, and I do not want any of you to be confused about the final design and quality of our shoes.  (Please note that these images are photos sent from the manufacturer of the shoe in progress)

However, I do want to show you a little of the prototyping process, so here’s a look at the evolution of our heels.

Originally, the manufacturer sent me a photo of a “sortof right” shaped heel that surprisingly tied in with historically accurate heel shapes of the 1770s, but strayed too far away from the more iconic Louie heel shape we associate with the 18th century.

Heel sample #1 – Not Quite Right

With the input of Mrs.C and a number of others who commented, and a stroke of luck, however, I was able to negotiate a more appetizing price on the development of the Louie heel shape, exclusively made for these shoes. One problem, though.  This is the next photo I received:


That doesn’t look like a Louie heel!  And why is the company logo stamped on it?  There was some miscommunication about the logo, and also those who developed the heel were unsure of the exaggerated shape and so were conservative with the design.

I asked for a revision to the heel, supported by more reference images, and here is the most recent heel:

Heel #3 – Ah, there we go!

Isn’t it cute!?  I look at this heel and see the perfect blend of style and daintiness.  It is not too chunky or overly flared, nor is it too modern and thin.  The curve at the back is very period, and the flare is subtle but definitely present.  Most importantly, the heel is placed in the center of your heel bone, not at the back, which will provide balance and comfort all day long.

As you see, I’ve gone through three heel shapes, and two entire shoe prototypes, and although I am finally happy with the shape of the heel, there were other parts of the shoe that I was not pleased with.  We are now working on a third prototype, but due to overseas holidays, I will not have this new sample until mid-February.  This means that, provided Sample #3 is absolutely correct, the date for pre-ordering your shoes has been pushed back to early March.


  • Hana - Marmota

    January 31, 2011 at 4:35 PM

    Oh, I love that heel. I have a pair of modern vintage-y shoes with a heel very similar to that (under the center of the heel!) and they're a pleasure to wear and very comfortable. I can walk with them as comfortably as in flats, except that flats don't make that fun clicking sound. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I wish I had the means to order your shoes, but I'm afraid I have many other priorities now, not enough money, not to speak of no means of buying overseeas at the moment… So shoes will have to wait for a better time… But seeing the heel, I can recommend it to anyone who is considering buying these now!

  • Lauren Stowell

    January 31, 2011 at 6:48 PM

    Lauren, I don't know how the communication gets so crossed. Sometimes it's humorous, except it delays things, lol. I'm glad to latest heel is correct – at least that part is right! We'll see how the new prototype looks on February 18th ๐Ÿ™‚

  • MrsC (Maryanne)

    January 31, 2011 at 9:10 PM

    Vunderbar, or should I say, Formidable! (the french kind). Merveileuse? hehe
    Now here's an interesting question – which Louis of France is the epynomous Louis heel named for?

  • Lauren Stowell

    January 31, 2011 at 9:18 PM

    Ooo! Trivia! Why, Louie XIV of course, as he was known to be quite short, and also vain. Many think the Louie heel came about in the 18th c., but it was the 17th, although there are some examples of even earlier heels worn by Queen Elizabeth.

    Am I right?

  • Angela

    January 31, 2011 at 11:22 PM

    Lauren, I just heard about your shoe line from folks at the latest GBACG open house. God Lord, how wonderful. Can't wait to buy a pair. Since I am on the late frieght here, are they in 1/2 sizes or is it just whole sizes? I have a fairly wide foot, will the shoes give? I hope, hope, hope! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Lauren Stowell

    February 1, 2011 at 4:50 AM

    yay! I am glad you all approve :-). Angela – they are in half sizes, yes, from 6 up to 12. They're natural fibers (silk and leather) so I imagine they will have a little to stretch to accommodate wider feet. I will be able to tell more when the prototype arrives and I can test it.

  • Anna

    February 1, 2011 at 7:48 AM

    The curve of number 3 is really pretty. But what about the sole? The black plastic in number 2 looks horrible ):
    can't wait to see more!

  • Anonymous

    February 1, 2011 at 4:55 PM

    Wow, those new curves are looking fabulous – absolutely lovely! Can't wait to see more ๐Ÿ™‚

    Maybe if I start saving I can order some – unfortunately poor at the moment. Grr. I might have missed this elsewhere, but how high is the heel?

  • Lauren Stowell

    February 1, 2011 at 7:27 PM

    Anna – the sole is smooth leather, and in the latest version is uncolored. Often shoes will have leather soles but be sealed with a glaze, particularly around the edges, which might be what you are seeing on #2 (it's hard to tell), but no worries – #2 is NOT the final shoe!

    Thief – the heel is 2" high. High enough to be pretty, low enough to be comfortable ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Katy Rose

    February 2, 2011 at 12:35 PM

    Litha…You could do both! Just figure out what you could cut out of your life every day and put that in a shoe fund. That's what I'm doing. ๐Ÿ˜€ 5 bucks or so a week should get me close to what it'll cost for them. Soooo Essited!

  • Sandra Brake

    February 3, 2011 at 9:55 AM

    Oh much more the thing! I like these lines much better! I wouldn't even mind if they were more flaired. I love them all!

  • Sandra Brake

    February 3, 2011 at 11:04 AM

    Just had a thought while I was blogging about red heels. Is there any change of having the heels dyed a different colour to the body or am I driving you nuts?
    Maybe that would be better when you do the leather shoes later on.

  • Lauren Stowell

    February 3, 2011 at 7:59 PM

    Hi Traveller –
    Good question. I can ask the dye master about having the heels dyed a different color than the body of the shoe, but this may be something better saved for the leather, as the dye is more controllable with leather than with silk.


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