V325: Introducing “Tavistock” Authentic Victorian Button Boots

…and it’s about time!  I am so excited to finally be able to release for pre-order our first boot, and indeed the only completely authentic Victorian button boot available!

Tavistock Victorian Button Boots – new from American Duchess Historical Footwear

“Tavistock,” named for the home of Charles Dickens, is very closely based on original examples of button boots from many fine museums, including my local Churchill County Museum in Fallon, Nevada.  These beauties are made of luxurious black calf skin, lined in real pigskin, and do *not* have a zipper up the inside of the leg.  You really do have to button them up, just like our foremothers.

Functional and historically accurate steel-shanked buttons.

I thought it would be cool to show you the development process of Tavistock, to lead you through a little journey from concept to reality.  Those of you who have been following Tavistock from the beginning will know that quite a lot has changed from the original design.  I’m here to explain why, and give a little insight into how things actually get made…

Tavistock started as a request, of course, by rather a lot of you.  When I hear a goodly number of ladies asking for the same thing, I will look into the availability of something like it on the market already.  For the button boots, I only found “costume” versions, all with zippers up the inside, and none that really had that authentic look.  It seemed like an insurmountable task, to do away with the modern technology and somehow achieve fit for a large array of different ankle and calf sizes, but then I thought, “if you can fit boots with a zipper, why not another kind of closure?”

One of the gorgeous, local boots I researched at the Churchill County Museum in Fallon.  I adore the two-tones and the spectator-y stylings.

The next step was to research, both original examples, and also what the majority of you ladies wanted in terms of color, material, heel height, and detailing.  About 450 of you answered questions in a survey, letting me know that you mostly wanted black, all-leather, with a 2 inch heel, like these:

Via The Met – 1883

With all this information compiled, the specification packet went off to the factory, where it sat for entirely too long.  The craftsmen working on the prototype had difficulty with the design, but were able to produce a sample just before they closed their doors.

My concept drawing
Sample 1 for Tavistock, from the old factory

The sample needed adjustments to the calf – it became clear that we needed to offer wide and regular calf sizes.  By this time, though, we needed to move to a new factory and start from square one, creating another prototype, with all the changes I wanted to make – the two calf sizes, and also a pointier toe, taller heel, and the addition of an elastic gusset at the top.

One of the revisions to Sample 1

Here is where Tavistock began to deviate from the original design.  With the addition of the gusset, the swoopy shaping at the top needed to be straightened out a bit.  I also made the difficult decision to do away with the scallops – in previous samples, the scalloped portion had not met our quality standards, and we try to avoid areas that may cause a high percentage of failure in manufacturing, especially the first time with a new pattern.  Once the factory is familiar with how these boots are constructed, we can add aesthetic detailing back in, and be able to offer two different styles – one more daywear, one more formal.

We also created a new French heel for these boots, something more substantial and visually balanced with the rest of the design.  It went through quite a few revisions…

Development of our new French heels, from left to right

Finally, the last shift was from leather-covered button, prone to popping apart and marring easily, to more authentic steel-shanked plastic buttons, developed from original, antique boot buttons I found on eBay and sent to our factory.

Original boot buttons

The final product makes me giddy, and I hope it does the same for you!  Our new factory has done a splendid job – Tavistock not only looks the part, but functions authentically, and is comfortable as well.  It’s met all of my standards, so that means it is time for the pre-order!

Tavistock from the side – this is the wide-calf version

Tavistock Victorian Button Boots
Pre Order December 3rd – 21st, 2012
$150 ($180) Pre-Order Special
LIMITED quantities available this time!


    • Lauren Stowell

      December 1, 2012 at 12:13 AM

      Hi Cassidy – yes, the intention was to have the buttonhooks available with the boots on pre-order, but I have had a ridiculously hard time getting them made. I'm determined, though – I WILL have them by the time Tavistocks arrive!

    • Little One

      December 3, 2012 at 4:58 AM

      Quick question, if we order them after the pre-order is done, can we still have them shipped with the boots and not pay shipping again?

    • Little One

      December 3, 2012 at 4:01 PM

      And by that I meant if we order the buttonhooks after the pre-order of the boots is done, can we get them shipped with the boots?

    • Lauren Stowell

      December 1, 2012 at 1:24 AM

      Hi Redhead – the heel shaping is a little late for 1850s, but there were heeled, side-buttoning boots in the 1860s. These drop in specifically more 1880s all the way through the 19teens.

  • Edelweiss Patterns

    December 1, 2012 at 1:31 AM

    This is so exciting! I think these boots are just gorgeous, and I think it's wonderful that they span such a wide time period. My favorite part, though, is the buttons – I had made an Edwardian gown earlier this year and added buttons just like these but in white to the bodice cuffs. At the time I felt like these buttons were not authentic to the time period since they almost looked as if they had a rhinestone in the center of each, so I was quite happy to hear that this style of button was actually produced back then!

  • Kelly

    December 1, 2012 at 3:30 AM

    So excited! And can I say, as someone with larger calves I am glad you are not leaving ladies like myself out of the mix. Not sure if I'll have the money for pre-order, what with the holidays and all but I promise I will be ordering a pair ASAP.

    • Lauren Stowell

      December 1, 2012 at 7:15 AM

      Yes indeed, the wider calfed ladies made themselves heard on the poll we did some time ago, so it only seemed logical to try to produce something to fit as many lovelies as possible. Hard! but worth it…

  • Unknown

    December 1, 2012 at 5:22 AM

    So the Wife has been super excited since I first showed these to her and just got even more excited when I told her that they would have a wide calf option. My question is though. Do we know the measurements on the calf options?

    Thank you for your time,


    • Lauren Stowell

      December 1, 2012 at 7:17 AM

      Hi Brandon – yes, the regular calf is 28 cm un-stretched; the wide calf is 36 cm un-stretched. The elastic gusset will add about two inches max to that measurement.

  • Fanny

    December 1, 2012 at 8:41 AM

    Goergous! Now looking at pics of original boots made me wonder about the shape… the original boots are in my eyes shaped very strangely, and I was wondering why that is. Was it common to use padding of some sort in the back, or was there a cavity left open? Since I'm guessing ladies of the 19th century didn't have feet shaped like that… Is the strange shape simply due to fashion, or did they have some other reason for making the shoes like that?

    • Lauren Stowell

      December 1, 2012 at 8:52 AM

      Hi Fanny – are you referring to the skinny ankles that flare into the heel of the foot? It is very pronounced in antique boots, yes – the boots fit tightly all around the foot, very tightly by today's standards, and if you imagine wearing tight boots from the time you were a child, it has the same effect as corseting, or in the extreme, Chinese foot binding – the feet and ankles stay thin, narrow, and small. We don't do this today, and don't like such tight fit around our legs, although to achieve it, you can move the buttons on the Tavistocks so that they fit your legs exactly.

  • Jewel

    December 1, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    These are gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous!!! These are a must have. I always have trouble finding boots to fit me. I hope my luck is better with these boots, though, because I cannot resist them.

    • Lauren Stowell

      December 2, 2012 at 5:28 AM

      Jewel, which parts usually don't fit? The buttons on these can be moved easily to get a perfect fit through the ankle and calf, if they need it.

    • Lauren Stowell

      December 2, 2012 at 5:30 AM

      Hi Sarah – the regular calf circumference is about 11 inches, the wide about 14 inches around, unstretched. The elastic gusset allows for additional stretch if you are between sizes, or need a little bit larger than 14 inches.

  • wundermary

    December 1, 2012 at 6:26 PM

    These are beautiful! Any chance of seeing the inside with the elastic gore? Are you willing to offer insight on how the sizing and fit run?

  • Michelle Hamilton

    December 2, 2012 at 4:59 AM

    How lovely, but alas, I won't be able to buy a pair, and I was going to (and I was so looking forward to the Victorian collection) because American Duchess no longer offers size 10.5

  • Laurie

    December 2, 2012 at 6:28 PM

    I'm with Lucia on preferring sample one. I wanted to wear these as fashion boots with jeans. I'm not sure the gusset works for me and I would have gladly moved the buttons. I am glad that most of the woman are able to have a good fit though.

  • Plumfield circa 1868

    December 3, 2012 at 4:35 AM

    I think these boots are very pretty. For years I have looked for boots – all kinds – that have real working buttons, lacing, etc. without zippers. The zippers are ugly and they look fake. We will measure to find our size and will order soon. Thanks.


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