How One Fugly Loafer Became the Gorgeous “Virginia” Renaissance Shoe

The development story of our new “Virginia” Renaissance shoes is rather a long one (but I’ll keep it short, with lots of pictures, promise!). We’ve been working on the design since March, after I met with Chris D., the head costumer at Jamestown Settlement.

Renaissance Shoes
“Virginia” Renaissance shoes, in oiled or buffed leather

Chris told me they had a need for a flat, unisex Jacobean style that was lightweight, comfortable, and nice to look at it. This lined up with what our customers and followers had been saying on Facebook, so the time was right to create our own. I set to work researching and sketching up some ideas that Chris and I bounced back and forth:

My sketches for various designs, toe shapes, and slashing patterns
Slashing patterns derived from original examples

As usual, though, the first prototype wasn’t exactly what we were going for:

Eegads, what is THAT!? Ew!

It was butt ugly.

Though the wedge sole construction is period, to our modern eyes, it just looked like an orthopedic shoe, not at all nice to look at! So it was back to the drawing board:

I don’t normally share my factory worksheets, but here’s one, to show how I tweak designs. This was a middle iteration, and in the next iteration we did away with the wedge completely, and changed the material.

We eventually did away with the wedge altogether, due to fugliness, and construction weirdness.

Another point of contention was the materials. The smooth leather just didn’t have the look and feel we wanted, and contributed to that awful loafer look, so I spent quite awhile hunting for a more suitable leather, and found the lovely oiled leather for the dark, and a buffed leather for the tan:

“Virginia” in brown oiled leather – keep it looking awesome by oiling it further, which will help with water resistance too

“Virginia” in tan buffed leather. Experiments with dyeing are in the works

The final result is a very pretty yet practical shoe that can be worn by both men and women, with a variety of costume. The oiled leather will just look better and better with age, and the all leather construction means comfort as well as historical accuracy.

I’m really proud of “Virginia,” and I hope you like them too! It took us awhile, but the results were worth it. Remember, the pre-order for these lovelies opens on Friday!


  • AuntieNan

    October 16, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    I think the butt ugly one is very cute, actually! If you've got one in a size 8, let me know!
    Seriously, I am hoping to get a pair this year for the Shakespeare troupe, if they can find the money in the budget.

  • Unknown

    October 10, 2018 at 3:33 PM

    I wore my pair with my Elizabethan Common Woman's kirtle to the Maryland Renaissance Festival last weekend, and had some fellow dressed-up sorts positively DROOLING over the shoes. They wanted to know where I got them and I told them American Duchess but they aren't made anymore! I would highly recommend bringing them back. Believe me, Ren Faire cast members and regulars would be absolutely DELIGHTED to have such a sturdy, comfortable, and period-correct shoe to wear!!

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