I Have 100 Years of Antique Shoes : Fashion Historians Collection

Take a look at the shoes styles that brought us to the modern age. While our shoes today may look different, they all have their origins in this 100 year span. Ballet flats, boots, high heels, cut outs, straps, and so much more can track their history back to this time. Rather than rely on museum photographs, we're going to look at my collection of antique shoes and boots which can show us far more about the different decades than meets the eye!

The 19th century began with big change in fashion. Shoe lost their heels and began to transition to square toes by the 1820s. But it wouldn't take long for fashion to bring back the heel in the 1850s. As decades went on, the toe shifted from square to round to almond to point and back again. Boots came in as the common day footwear at the beginning of the century, but by the 1920s were starting to give up their dominance. Every decade has it's own distinct style and silhouette, though they are full of a variety of unique options.

Met fashion plates: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/libraries-and-research-centers/watson-digital-collections/costume-institute-collections/costume-institute-fashion-plates
NYPL: https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/
Russian Shoe Museum: https://eng.shoe-icons.com/
1864 Boots: https://www.historicnewengland.org/explore/collections-access/gusn/925/
1816 Shoes: https://emuseum.history.org/objects/49578/shoe?ctx=a947673ed00dc8c8e906d508f49630408440c053&idx=89
More References: https://www.pinterest.com/colevintage/shoe-timeline/

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🎶Music via Epidemic Sound (https://www.epidemicsound.com)

00:00 Introduction
02:45 1820-1850
09:22 1850-1880
18:18 1880-1900
22:57 1900-1920

55 Comments on “I Have 100 Years of Antique Shoes : Fashion Historians Collection”

  1. I had no idea Oxfords were such an old style. Also scalloped edges boots are adorable as are the rosettes. What a neat way to explore fashion via shoes!

    1. Oxfords are one of my favorite shoe styles _because_ they have been around for such a long time and are therefore kind of timeless.
      Also, mary janes. I think that’s part of the reason that character shoes are shaped the way they are. They are comfortable, have a little bit of a heel, you can move in them, they form to your foot, and they can serve as shoes with costumes of a wide range of time.

  2. You brought up the bicycle boots, and it immediately brought back up my desire to see assorted literary/historical women’s athletic feats recreated. What kind of shoes _would_ Lizzie Bennet have worn to hike over and check on her sister? Early women cyclists mention this ride or that in their surviving journals and correspondence – can we reconstruct those routes and see what it might have been like to ride them? With skirts and petticoats and heavy bikes with no brakes or gearshifts, through the hilly countryside? It just fascinates me.

    1. Take a look at the Historical Hiker channel on YouTube. The host makes historical clothing (and buys appropriate shoes or boots) and then goes hiking in it; she does 1880s, 1830s, and recently joined a Napoleonic War era re-enactment group so she put together an early 1800s outfit.

    2. The cycling thing is done, there’s historical womens cycling events in Britain. They pop up in search, the group at Oxford U has patterns for the clothes on line.
      Also – FIDM (fashion museum in Los Angeles) has a major enormous show traveling now about womens sports, they have the outfits from about 1800 on, it’s amazing! Called ‘Sporting Fashion, Outdoor Girls 1800 to 1969’. There’s a fantastic book.
      You do the re-enactments. I’m doing 1890’s fencing, not waiting for other people to.

  3. A very fun look at shoe styles! I saw many style ‘repeats’ that I wore in the late 1960s and 1970s. (My ‘fashionable’ years.) After that, I was concerned about not falling down whilst carrying babies. Now I wear ‘minimal’ shoes and am concerned with foot health – as defined in the current era. Thank you.

    1. Do you remember the T-strap shoes that were popular in the 1960’s & early 1970’s? Not sure how long they were popular after that.

  4. While I recognize the differences in these shoes vs modern ones, I’m honestly amazed at how many of those styles look very similar to something I tried on in my youth in the 90s. I guess no matter the time or place, people are mostly still just people.

  5. Your collection is amazing. This is the best kind of museum tour: I’m wearing insulated track pants and sipping tea on my couch. I have a crazy question about 1920s women’s boots. I recently acquired a wearable pair of women’s Chippewa lace up boots. They have 19 eyelets. I can’t even find a chart for how long the laces would be. They are super similar to the American Duchess Bessie and the Redwing Gloria, currently the single mosted expensive boot Redwing makes. I brought them to the Redwing store in MN and they advised against leather because too thick. But I can’t think what else bootlaces would be made of. They came with horrible rotted wrong shoelaces. No clue where to begin to look for anything like period correct. What would you do, Nicole?

    1. The braided shoe lace (flat or round) has been around for a long time. The key differences are fiber (cotton and silk vs synthetic) and aiglets (metal vs plastic). There should be a number of high quality manufacturers out there for cotton boot laces with metal aiglets/tips still today! Just make sure they’re long enough.

    2. (Disregard if you’ve already found your boot laces)
      To measure the length you’d need for your boots, use an inexpensive ¼” wide ribbon that is often sold for $1 to $2 at a craft or dollar store. Then:
      • cut a yard (3 feet/36″/.9 meters) of ribbon from the spool
      • put a boot on your foot
      • lace the boot with the ribbon
      • make the ends meet evenly
      • tie as you would regular laces
      • trim any excess off of each end of the ribbon
      • remove the ribbon from the boot, and measure its length
      You’ll want boot laces no shorter than that measurement.

      Depending on the boots and wearer’s taste, colorful ribbon laces could be a fun look.

  6. Fascinating stuff!
    I didn’t know, you could just collect stuff like that – I guess, I kinda assumed, whatever examples of historical shoes were still in existence, were already in some museum or other.
    What good luck for us, that that is apparently not the case! This is so much more informative, then just looking at these items sitting in a glass case!

  7. Interesting after “rolling” my ankle and other literal missteps in “modern” shoes, I almost totally wear boots (of varying heights) when outside (admittedly not as often these days as before 2019). There were many of these historical boots (only repros obviously) that I would wear. These boots are art that you can walk in and feel good about oneself.

    Full disclosure I just bought a pair of black platform boots with a 3 1/2 inch heel. My apologies to Nicole Rudolph, but loved and appreciated this video!

  8. I’d really like to know what women who did hard work, especially in the countryside, wore during the period when shoes were like ballet slippers. It’s hard to imagine pattens in a farmyard or among the “fertilizer” and straw in a dairy barn. Did they go barefoot? Did they wear mens boots?

    1. Both men and women would wear wooden-soled clogs. These could be the entirely wooden carved shoes we associated with the Netherlands, or also just a shoe with a wooden sole and thick leather that would be slipped on or laced up. Sometimes these were overshoes, with a simple thin leather shoe like many of the flat ones in this video worn underneath. I imagine this made it easy for someone working outdoors, since you can take off your overshoe at the door and have the inner shoe as a house shoe to avoid tracking in dirt.

    2. People also wore pattens in some places, which were like a wooden platform sandal with leather straps that went over your shoes to protect them and lift them out of the mud. There were even popular styles that had a metal frame that was on the ground, and then the wooden sole was lifted up a couple of inches to keep it out of the dirt. I imagine this would have been practical in a dairy barn!

  9. I was reminded by the harsh lines of the mid 1890’s of the menswear style in women’s clothing in the early 2000’s. I had a pair of winged Oxford style heeled pumps that were amazing to look at and wear (except for a decided lack of cushion for the ball of the foot). They were very like the American Duchess Londoners

  10. I adore those 1895 boots, they are absolutely gorgeous! They really do remind me of more masculine styles, I guess that fits with the clothing of the same time.

    1. I have such a short extra wide foot and I would have been in pain 😩 wearing these shoes. I even have problems with today’s shoes!

  11. So many of these remind me of pairs from my great grandmother’s collection…that I was too deep in my grieving and too afraid of other family members to speak up for, so they were donated. My mother has some of the fancier undergarments from the teens and twenties, but all of my great, great, great grandmother’s shoes were donated. I hate the pragmatists who didn’t see value in keeping something that couldn’t be worn.

    1. No way. I would never have given away the items. Me too I don’t know why others do not hold onto certain items. I love antiques. I wish I owned something that belonged to my grandmother or great grandmother.

    2. If you’re able to get some really old shoes or whatever everyone will call you a hoarder. I really hate that. My grandma had clothes she saved from 1900 thru 1970. She had sheer blouses from around 1911, that she had worn as a teacher. They were so beautiful. When she died my mother sold her teacup collection which my grandma told me would be mine, and all the clothing was sent to the dump. 😪 and when my mother passed, my sister sold everything and said she wasn’t going to let me save a few things because I was a hoarder. If I hoard anything it would be yarn nowadays. My daughter won’t throw away good yarn, she crochets and knits like I do. But I still miss the clothing and shoes my grandma had wanted to give me.

    3. @Khrysalis I get called a hoarder. My mom threw away my hat collection that I started in my mid-teens. I had hats going back to the 1920s. It’s one of the reasons I didn’t get much from either if my grandmother’s estates. My dad just died and it’s the same…although if his I want his tools. He loved antique tools, as do I.

      I see nothing wrong with having collections. With everything wrapped in acid-free tissue paper, after appropriate cleaning, I don’t see how my family considers that hoarding. When I left my house for a medical internship, my parents came the first week I was gone and did a number on my home. It still isn’t how I want it again and my mom just says, “well, we can’t keep looking backwards”. She won’t apologize. I don’t have my collectibles, but thank god I still have a ridiculous pile of Walmart (fucking) tank tops…👿

  12. As a shoe salesman, I love learning about the history. Some customers love it when I sneak in little tidbits about their shoes they can relate to their new shoes

  13. The most interesting fact I learned is how shoes changed due to the dresses getting shorter. I had never thought about that before! Very organized and informative. Enjoyed watching! My feet hurt just looking at some of those shoes!!!

  14. “Mama used to say you could tell a lot about a person by the shoes …”

    I loved seeing the evidence of wear on the soles. I always wonder who owned them and all of the places they have been. I love it!

  15. I can appreciate how much TIME this video took for you to collect samples for, to videotape and to edit. Wow! And the footage was so interesting to a history history nerd like me. Thank you so much for adding sample pictures to fill out the samples of styles that each decade or so included! Well done!

  16. Hi, I was wondering if you could do a video on historical men’s shoes. I’d understand if you don’t necessarily have physical representation but it would be nice to see your take on them. I like the way you explain/present any items in fashion. It’s very direct and easily understandable.

  17. I love how wearable all the heel heights are. So practical but also beautiful. I would wear almost all of them. I wish we could buy modern versions of these in mainstream shops.❤

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