If you own pair of latchet shoes, eventually you will own a pair of shoe buckles to close them. Shoe buckles were the standard way of fastening one’s footwear in the 18th century, despite tie shoes and slip-on shoes having been around for hundreds of years before. Why? Bling.
The Met: Shoe Buckles, late 18th c., metal/paste, British.
The upper classes adorned their shoes with bejeweled buckles made with precious stones. If you couldn’t afford precious stones, paste stones (we call them rhinestones today) were available, and if you couldn’t afford glass, wrought silver, gold, and brass could you have, and if you couldn’t even afford wrought buckles, you could have simple round or square metal buckles…..but wherever you were in life, buckles were on your shoes.
Here are some of my favorite buckles from the 18th century. I have a taste for glitz, so my selection here is biased:
The Met: Shoe Buckles, late 18th c. paste/metal, British.
Lady’s Shoe Buckle. Silver, steel, rhinestones. France. 1768-1774
Sterling pair, ornate curvaceous frame, 1.5″ x 2.5″, (1 buckle w/ higher curve & 1 broken prong) very good. MCNY
Red paste stones set in arched oval pinchbeck mount, single row of stones, 2 bows on each buckle, 1.75″ x 2″, (3 stones missing from 1 bow) excellent. MCNY
V&A Shoe buckle Place of origin: Europe (made) Date: ca. 1770 (made)
V&A; shoe buckle c.1780
There are literally hundreds of shoe buckles of various types held in collections such as the V&A and The Met, both great sources of inspiration for your costumes. There are a handful of reproductions on the market, some wrought, some simple, some glittery, and once you pierce those holes into your latchets, you’ll never want to go back. Repro buckles are such a cool way to add just that little bit of extra authenticity to your ensemble.
Marianne P.March 1, 2012 at 8:27 PM
ooooh gorgeous. So when can we expect your buckle repro section to start expanding? That crazy awesome V&A – 1770 one is so pretty.
Lauren RMarch 1, 2012 at 8:32 PM
You can expect that very soon 🙂 There have been many a request lately for silver buckles without stones
ZipZipMarch 1, 2012 at 9:07 PM
Ooh, the crazy 1770 ones with the flowers and bows are such fun. Frilly fun, but fun.
AshMarch 1, 2012 at 9:15 PM
have you considered selling plain buckles for self-embellishment, like you did with the shoe clips? i make my own broaches and tiaras by soldering settings and filigrees onto blank bases, i imagine you could do much the same thing with the buckles!
Lauren RMarch 2, 2012 at 2:24 AM
Ooo, that is something to consider. I suppose a blank frame could be used to add decoration to, yeah?
Clare S (GwT)March 1, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Swoon! I love the bows on the last pair!
MaggieMarch 1, 2012 at 10:54 PM
I love that crazy 1770s ones! Looking forward to seeing more buckles! 🙂
GwenyverMarch 2, 2012 at 2:31 AM
I have to admit, the very jewelled, colourful ones are calling to me.
Lauren RMarch 2, 2012 at 2:31 AM
oh me too, I hear that call!
Sandra BrakeMarch 2, 2012 at 8:49 AM
Wow I'll take the 1770s V&A one any day of the week. Your crazy and frilly is my heaven.
Lauren RMarch 3, 2012 at 8:30 PM
That one is quite fun – I'd be afraid of snapping or bending parts of it off, lol. Or stabbing myself, hahaha.
Lady RebeccaMarch 2, 2012 at 10:31 AM
Ooh, I so want the Flora buckles! Or those blue ones. Or the crazy V&A ones. That first bow one wasn't from the 18th c, though, was it? It looks so modern.
Lauren RMarch 3, 2012 at 8:30 PM
It looks modern, but is from the 1760s!
CécileMarch 2, 2012 at 12:11 PM
you are right, the buckle with the blue stones isn't a shoebuckle, it is deffinietely a kneebuckle (for breeches) they have this type of chapes to secure them in the buttonhole on the kneeband.
I wonder with what suit it would have been worn…
AnonymousMarch 2, 2012 at 1:28 PM
Everyone loves bling!
Cynthia GriffithMarch 2, 2012 at 4:58 PM
Such pretty-pretties! 🙂
AnnaMarch 2, 2012 at 8:10 PM
I have looked at this post like 5 times now…Lauren, you are way too good at derailing my productivity 🙁
Sometimes I dislike living in this century where, as far as I know, nothing like these buckles are being made anywhere in the world for general consumption. And then I remember my odds of being born into the aristocracy/upper class, had I lived back then, are pretty much zero and I couldn't have afforded these anyway. Life is just not fair.
Lauren RMarch 3, 2012 at 8:31 PM
Annabelle, I know just what you mean – I'd be a thatcher's daughter. Yay. I'm a thatcher's daughter now, actually, lol.
CarolineMarch 3, 2012 at 12:32 AM
The 1770s v&a buckles are AMAZING!!!!! Oh my gosh I am in love!