A little while ago, our wonderful customer Deb found an original “Astoria” shoe languishing in an antique shop. She asked if I’d like to have it, to which I enthusiastically responded, “absolutely!”
The poor little thing was in such a state, with its leather cracked and flaking, its shape distorted by decades of neglect, and its sole leather worn and separating from the upper. This was a shoe that was used thoroughly in its working life, but history had ravaged it as well.
|The gorgeously balanced French heel is about 2.75″ tall, while the size of the shoe is maybe only a 4.5 or 5|
With antique anything, the question(s) of conservation and preservation always come up. Some items need to be stabilized in their current condition, to prevent further deterioration. Other items need to be carefully cleaned and restored. Then there are items like this little original Astoria.
Forgive me for not taking photos of it beforehand, but believe when I tell you it was derelict. I was actually surprised that the antique shop kept the shoe, as it was so worn that most people would simply throw it away. This shoe needed to be stabilized rather aggressively, and what I ended up doing was really “freezing it in time” after I restored it as much as I could.
|I very carefully cleaned the beaded areas with a toothbrush|
Thank goodness for Angelus products. I worked in Angelus Lustre Cream, a pigmented product that hydrates and conditions leather, followed by Angelus Shoe Wax Polish, which fills in cracks, covers scuffs, and coats the leather. A soft buff with my rag brought the leather back to some of its former glory, but the extensive cracking all over the upper was not stable and was still flaking off if looked at sideways. At this point I made the decision to carefully paint on Angelus Acrylic Finisher, which re-adhered the flakes and “froze” them, keeping the shoe together for a long time to come. Stuffing the shoe with paper (which will be replaced by an un-bleached muslin “pillow”) was the final step.
I know some of you will object to the way I restored this shoe, but knowing that leather literally just disintegrates on its own over time, I felt that this shoe, particularly as an example of a style American Duchess has reproduced, needed to be saved in any non-obtrusive way possible, and preserved for the future as not only a study object, but also an object of beauty.
|Those iconic straps, pointed toe, and all those beads – YUM!|