V61: Favorite 18th Century Shoe Buckles

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.

More 18th century buckles and shoes can be seen on my Shoes – 18th Century Pinterest board, and 18th century latchet shoes and paste stone reproduction buckles are to be had in my shop.

19 Comments

  • 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.

    Reply
  • Ash

    March 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!

    Reply
    • Lauren R

      March 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.

      Reply
  • Lady Rebecca

    March 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.

    Reply
  • Cécile

    March 2, 2012 at 12:11 PM

    Hi Lauren,

    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…

    Reply
  • Anna

    March 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.

    Reply
    • Lauren R

      March 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.

      Reply

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