The only one of its kind – as far as I know!

September 8th, 2020

I’ve been asked a number of times how difficult it was to walk / fight / dance in the small little cowmouths, similar to those here: The reason is clear – the vast majority of documentation shows people wearing shoes, even in the early 16th century where a variety of illustrations in the form of fighting manuals, woodcuts, and paintings show many soldiers wearing shoes.

But, there is a second reason – folks in our day and age associate boots with “olden times,” and their visual is all the more enhanced when you get excellent works like “Wolf Hall” which do so many things right from a costume perspective, but all of the gents are wearing boots. In reality, shoes were far more common, and the vast majority of folks wearing boots are traveling, either on horseback or in some other manner, at least until the 17th century where they become more common, based on the archeological and pictorial record.

Combine the two questions – is there such a thing as a cowmouth boot? I have seen a number of modern works which attempt to combine the look of the cowmouth with a boot, but it was not until about ten years ago that I found an example of such a boot in the pictorial record. I would underscore that since then, I have seen exactly 0 additional examples. This makes this a singularity, and exceedingly rare. If you’re aware of any other evidence, please do share! I’d be very curious to know more.

The evidence is a painting by Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen, dated between 1485 and 1533, of allegory of David and Abigail. As a reminder, Abigail was the wife of Nabal; she became a wife of the future King David after Nabal’s death (1 Samuel 25). Abigail was David’s second wife, after Saul’s daughter, Michal, whom Saul later married to Palti, son of Laish when David went into hiding, and Ahinoam (thanks Wikipedia!).

So, considering the allegorical story, and the extremely scant evidence, I find it unlikely that such a boot was common at all. Would love to know of more examples, though!

1570s Silk Faille Pumpes

March 14th, 2020

Finally, my first real pair of fabric covered leather shoes. Although there is a great deal of both pictorial and extant evidence for fabric-covered shoes, I have never had the chance to examine such a pair up close. The most time-intensive part of this was certainly the embroidery, which the shoemaker would normally have handed off to someone else prior to making up the shoes.

Let us do a bit of digging into the historical evidence for this type of shoe.
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MFA Visit and Some Old Friends

January 15th, 2020

I visited the MFA about 14 years ago in 2006, and got quite a few photos of their fantastic collection of chopines and historic shoes. I had the excellent fortune to visit again and set up a last-minute appointment to view a few pieces, which I highly recommend you do if you find yourself passing through Boston at any point. I examined six pieces in detail, with myriads of pictures, and although I’m not to publish anything on them, I would love to share my notes on each (as well as record for my own reference!)

Let us start with this little beauty, and I do mean little:

I had to place my hand for reference, since these really are absolutely tiny little gems.
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19th Century Waistcoat Modifications

November 29th, 2019

I know that this is not exactly shoe-related, but I was exceedingly fortunate to be able to pick up a set of 19th century waistcoats. The best of them, in absolutely wonderful shape, is a silk faille waistcoat, with amazing embroidery, not to mention fully welted pockets (3) as well as internal slits intended for chest padding. Sadly, it best of them was a little snug for me, and I could not help myself in wanting to alter it so that I could wear it! This might be considered somewhat sinful, but no worse than what the actual Victorians did to a great deal of 18th century clothing and paintings (cropping, cutting, etc.), and I tried to take as much care as I could to respect the original construction.

What do you think that third pocket up high is for? Read on, and explore!
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