Some History Behind Our Waltz Edwardian Slipper

Now available for pre-order, our new Waltz slipper is based on a plethora of late-Victorian and Edwardian examples! In this blog post, we share some history about evening slippers from the 1870s through the 1920s, including what materials and trimmings were the most fashionable, and why you should consider investing in your own pair of historical reproduction slip-on pumps courtesy of American Duchess.

Throughout the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the shoes that women wore to formal evening occasions and balls were known as “slippers.” Not to be confused with comfy house slippers, this was a slip-on style of pump that was highly decorative and made with fashion fabrics. Women’s magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar published advice for women who were trimming their own ball slippers at home. One particular article from 1869 contained figures of eight elaborate examples, ranging from a classic satin bow to more complex rosettes worked and pleated into star or clover shapes.

Our Waltz slippers come with removable clip-on Petersham ribbon double bows, perfect for styling versatility! The two examples below from the 1890s and early 1900s feature similarly quaint bow adornments.

Pink silk evening slippers by J. Ferry, French, 1890–1900. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Cream silk satin and leather woman’s shoes by Daniels and Fisher, American, 1895-1905. Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

The prevailing advice during this period was that evening slippers should match the fabric of one’s dress, preferably made from the same exact fabric. Having a custom pair of shoes made-to-order for every new evening dress you purchased would have been a hefty added expense, making one’s ability to fulfill this standard a real status symbol! Certainly, not all women could afford this. In 1908, one Vogue article advised ladies that if their new gowns were made from a “popular shade of pink, blue, yellow, or lavender” it might be possible for them to find a virtually identical color match in a “stock-size” shoe. While custom-dying a pair of ready-made slippers to match your dress could also be a workaround, the author warned readers not to attempt this if they weren’t particularly skilled in dying silks.

We can only imagine the beautiful gowns that likely paired with the luxurious examples below!

Green silk slippers, American, 1870–75. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Silk satin with silk supplementary weft patterning and leather with silk satin ribbon woman’s shoes, F. P. Haldy, American, circa 1870. Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Advice on what color hosiery to wear varied throughout the period. Some felt that stockings should match the color of the slippers — so if the slippers were made out of the same material as the gown, that would create quite a monochrome effect. Others wanted their stockings to match one of the colors of the trimmings of their gown, instead of the gown itself. One 1888 issue Harper’s Bazaar actually contained both sentiments within the same article. This must have been a confusing issue for fashionistas, to be sure!

In the two following French fashion illustrations from 1886, we can see lovely evening slippers peeking out under the hems of their wearers’ beautiful ball gowns. In the first image, a light blue slipper with a bow completes the look — and we even see enough of the foot to catch a glimpse of a light pink stocking!

1886 French Ball Gown via Costume Institute Fashion Plates
1886 French Ball Gowns via Costume Institute Fashion Plates

In catalogs from department stores such as Sears & Roebuck and Bloomingdale’s, heels for evening slippers are typically addressed as “medium height,” simply “French” or “Louis XV,” or not directly described at all — just shown through illustration. That said, there does seem to have been a variety of heel styles and heel heights throughout the period we’re looking at, which could have come down to trends but also personal preference. Our Waltz slipper features a brand-new custom 1.25″ / 3.1 cm French heel!

Illustration of three 19th century women’s shoes by T. Watson Greig, 1900, via The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Art & Architecture Collection, The New York Public Library.

Although many of the examples we’ve looked at so far were made with silk textiles, leather was also a fashionable option. In 1906, Town & Country Magazine featured a fabulous patent leather dress-pump evening slipper with a Cuban heel, worn with black embroidered stockings. One 1908 New York Times article titled “Slippers for Evening” mentioned suede and kid leather pumps and slippers, and another article from the year prior claimed that black patent leather pumps looked smart with a calling costume. Our Waltz slippers are made with soft pebbled leather uppers and are available in Black, Gold, Cream, Green, Peach, and Pale Blue.

Check out the gorgeous leather evening slippers below, all dating from between circa 1873 and 1897.

Leather woman’s shoe with silk embroidery and silk satin ribbon, American, circa 1875. Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
White leather woman’s shoes, United States, 1873. Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Leather and silk evening slippers by Hook, Knowles & Co., British, c. 1897.The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

During the Edwardian era, a pair of evening slippers was considered a must-have on every fashionable woman’s packing list for even short visits away from home. And can’t you see why? Our leather Waltz Edwardian Slippers are sleek, versatile, and luxurious. The perfectly balanced 1.25″ / 3.1 cm heel will seamlessly sweep you from daytime events to the dance floor. And don’t forget that you can remove the Petersham ribbon shoe clip for even more styling options!

The Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot collection is on sale for $20/€20 off each pair from November 3-17 in our US and UK/EU stores. Expected delivery is in March/April of 2024. We can’t wait to see how you style them!

Pre-Order is Open
November 3-17, 2023
$20/€20 Discount Per Pair

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