Heck Yeah, Witch Shoes

This month we’re all about unexpectedly ‘modern’ designs in historical fashion. The May ’22 “Avant-Garde” collection explores bold colors and geometric shapes in 1930s/40s shoes, and also an older trend, the late Victorian and Edwardian love of strappy, strappy shoes.

For a time period we tend to think of as prudish, the ladies of the 1890s and 1900s sure did love to show their fancy footwear. Multiple straps, laces, cutouts, a plethora of buttons, beads, and interesting shapes paired with the quintessential pointed toe and curvy French heel make the shoes c. 1890 to 1925 the very height of witch-wear.

Shoes like these were, of course, not called Witch Shoes at the time. They were marketed as Cromwells, Molieres, Colonials, The Blue Danube, Bar or Barrette Shoes, Whoopee Booties, Tango Boots or Shoes, The Sally Sandal, Soulier Italie, and many other colorful monikers across a variety of designs.

There is so much to see on this page! The Souliers “Italie” and “Gaby” are great examples of the cutouts and interesting vamp shapes. It’s hard to ignore the original inspiration for Bernadette too šŸ˜‰. Shoe Icons, Illustration from Le Franc Parleur, 1919.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and these wonderful centenarians are decidedly gothic. Here are some of our favorite, wickedly wonderful shoes and boots of the 1890s through the 1920s:

We simply must start with the original 1890s example we reproduced in our new “Endora.” Cutouts, pointed vamp, buttons. It’s just everything a witchy shoe should be. Shoe Icons.
A popular cross-cutout shape for boots in the 1890s. LACMA. A *lot* of this style of boot in various colors survive.
Intense cutouts on these side-button boots from 1900-1910. LACMA. This was probably done with a punch jig. Today we would use the power of lasers to make this lattice design.
Barrette Boots by Joseph Box, 1896. The Powerhouse Museum. This multi-strap style with central buttons was very common and popular for both women’s high-button boots and children’s boots. Another pair very similar to these survives in dark red leather.
Very typical “Moliere” style with large tongue and little strap and buckle. These are Pierre Yantorny, 1914-19, The Met
Witch vibes all around – Pinet shoes from c. 1919 with enormous tongues and little “Cromwell” buckles. LACMA
This is an example of a trend in early 1920s shoes I like to call “ribcage shoes.” Pierre Yantorny explored variation of this concept. 1922, LACMA.
Yantorny, 1925-30, The Met – further exploration from Yantorny of the ribcage design, now with extra spinal action. The Met actually has several pairs of these in black and ivory.
A wonderfully-witchy beaded button shoe from Shoe Icons, 1900-1919

What makes a shoe “witchy?” Well, simply the way it makes you feel! We’ve made quite a few shoes inspired by these feels over the years and even have a whole “Gothic” collection on the website for just such an occasion. Of course, the most recent addition is “Endora,” the reproduction 1890s shoe with the crazy cutout vamp and buttons. It’s such a pretty design, and it was fun to do them in a couple very bold colors – “poison purple,” and “arsenic green.”

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