Sneak Peek at American Duchess’s Elizabethan Shoes

April 30, 2012

Shoes fit for a Duchess

Check this out! It’s so titillating to see a prototype of a shoe the Queen Elizabeth could have worn! American Duchess has plenty of great historical shoes currently for sale and in the prototype stage, but one of the most interesting shoes Lauren’s been working on is her Stratford shoe, an Elizabethan/Stuart shoe that aims to please reenactors who need shoes from about 1580-1630. It’s a wide swathe of time and a very demanding audience to please, so the shoe is being constantly revised, but oh, the suspense is killing me!

Once all the kinks and details are worked out, these exciting new shoes should accommodate even the most active, stringent reenactor’s needs! The hard part is working out how much historical accuracy should be sacrificed to meet with modern demands for comfort. After all, court fashions from any era aren’t exactly known for their practicality (and are known for rather the opposite), so trying to mold an antique aesthetic to modern principles is quite a challenge.

The shoes you just looked at belong to Queen Elizabeth and are encrusted with pearls and gems. The Stratford design is based off shoes like the ones in this portrait and you will be able to decorate them as much as you desire:

Vere Egerton, Mrs William Booth, attributed to Robert Peake

It’s beyond difficult to find extant examples of Renaissance and Baroque shoes–even in paintings– because 400 years ago, skirts were long and people literally wore their clothes to bits unless they were very rich (and the shoe would have had to survive for 400 years, too!). Here are some extant shoes from the Elizabeth and Stuart eras:

While period pieces may be hard to find even in art, one English artist routinely painted shoes into the portraits of his wealthy patrons. Robert Peake the Elder lived during the exact era the Startford shoes are recreating, 1551–1619. His portfolio is impressive, including multiple portraits of Queen Elizabeth and countless nobles, ladies and lords. Here are some of the shoes from his paintings. Curious about the rest of the outfits? Click on the images to view the full painting!

These aren’t by Robert Peake, but they show the transition from the low-heel and rounded Elizabethan toe to the crazy-squared toes and red heels of the Jacobean era:

What’s most brilliant about these portraits is that they reveal just how similar men’s and women’s shoes were during the Elizabethan period. So if you are a male reenactor and you have a small enough foot, you could certainly wear the new American Duchess Stratfords with ease (American Duchess currently makes up to a wide size 12 in ladies, which is about a 10 in men’s). The Stratford heel will be period-perfect and short, so they should be much easier to walk in than chopines…

…but I’m still dreaming of the day! :)

As with all my articles, all of the images in this article are either linked to larger versions, articles explaining them, or other fact-filled sites to help you explore, so please feel free to check them out!

Also, you will definitely want to check out the historical heel website. In fact, I recommend bookmarking it!

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