18th Century Mules in Art

Some of you may be wondering how, when, and where to wear the new “Antoinette” 18th century mules, thinking they look oh-so delicate, and not at all practical for anything.  To answer the question, let’s take a look at some primary source material – depictions of 18th century women wearing this type of shoe.  When did they wear it, and how?

Wear them in the boudoir…

Francois Boucher, La Toilette, 1742  

Wear them while crying …

La Mauvaise Nouvelle “bas news,” 1740, by Jean-Baptist-Marie Pierre
Wear them in the kitchen…
“Svenska: En piga hoser sappa utur en kiettel – i en skal,” 1770s?, by Pehr Hillestrom
Wear them for breakfast…
Leonard Defrance, “The Breakfast”

Wear them to wash other people’s clothes…

“La Blanchisseuse,” 1761, Jean-Baptiste Greuze
Wear them when you’re Madame de Pompadour…
“Portrait en pied de la marquise de Pompadour,” 1748-55, Maurice Quentin de La Tour

Wear them for a dangerous liaison…

“The Boudoir,” 1730s, Jean Baptiste Joseph Pater

Wear them while swinging in your pastoral garden…

Jean-Honore Fragonard, “Les hasards heureux de l’escarpolette,” 1767-68
Wear them while out hunting…
“Mr. and Mrs. Robert Andrews,” 1748, Thomas Gainsborough
So where to wear your Antoinette mules?
Sport them for indoor events such as tea and dinner parties, or indoor reenactments.  Wear them in states of undress, or with more formal gowns, while relaxing, or while strolling formal gardens.  Wear them as a lady, a well-to-do middle class woman, or even a ladies’ maid fortunate to receive her mistress’ hand-me-downs.


  • vintagevisions27

    November 11, 2013 at 7:34 PM

    Ok, not so sure about wearing mules for hunting lol! Not exactly practical footwear but I thought the thought all the same. 🙂
    You say the mules can be dyed but I'm wondering about the embroidery. Wouldn't the dye affect the embroidery thread? Perhaps you could do a quick post on dying the mules to show us how they might look.

    Emily's Vintage Visions

    • Lauren Stowell

      November 11, 2013 at 7:39 PM

      Perfect timing! I was just posting a picture on Facebook to show the results of over-dyeing the mules. Here's a pic: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/274015958551630282/

      The satin sucks up the dye, while the metallic embroidery resists it. I wasn't particularly careful, and really just dabbed the dye on with a small, flat paintbrush to get in all the nooks and crannies. The International Dyes are awesome, and really easy to use, because they're made specifically for dyeing shoes. One thing of note, though, is that every type of satin dyes differently, and this satin takes the dye a little lighter than the swatch on the website looks.

  • Katie Jo

    November 11, 2013 at 10:10 PM

    Was the purpose of the mules to make ones feet look smaller than ones hands? I was amazed at how in most of the pictures the feet appear either equal in size or smaller than the hands.

    • Lauren Stowell

      November 12, 2013 at 10:40 PM

      I don't think this was main purpose of the mules, but the paintings do show the ideal of feminine beauty at the time – you can see it in fashion plates too, women with teeeeeny tiny feet. The desire for tiny feet persisted for rather a long time. Women in the 19th century regularly wore shoes that were too small, and really quite frail in materials and construction, in an effort to "shrink" their appearance.

  • Sassy Countess

    November 11, 2013 at 11:59 PM

    I have a love – hate relationship with mules. I love to slip them on and run. However, I find that I "play" with them when I'm standing still or sitting down. Do you think that a grip could be placed inside the shoe? It it called the "upper" area?

    • Lauren Stowell

      November 12, 2013 at 10:41 PM

      Do you need help keeping the shoe on the foot? If you wear these barefoot, the insole material is leather and will help "stick" the shoes to your foot, but if you wear them with stockings, then adding an insert under the ball of the foot will help keep them on more easily.

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