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18teenth Century Shoes | History of Fashion Design

18teenth Century Shoes

A shoemakers shop, 1760’s France, from Diderot

 Heels to bear the precious charge
More diminutive than large
Slight and brittle, apt to break
Of the true Italian make.

The top boot, the typical male footwear of the 17th Century, faded away into the areas of riding dress during the early 18th Century as it was replaced by the shoe.

1700militaryboots French military boots of the style worn from the late 17th century to the middle of the 18th century.   From the Army museum in Paris.

1750'sboot English riding boot c.1750

Fashionable men’s shoes in the early 18th Century had high but sturdy heels, painted red for court wear and high fashion, a high tongue, and long square ended toes.

MVC-009F Louis XIV & Son

Informal men’s shoes had lower heels and shorter wider toes, and were invariably made of black leather.


Shortly into the century, the dominant shape became that of informal shoes and dress shoes began to be made in a similar fashion to ordinary shoes, with the addition of red heels and buckles.


Shoe buckles became the prime focus of men’s shoes for most of the century until the late 18th Century when political revolutions prompted members of the radical left to discard them as decadent aristocratic luxuries.

cowpersbuckles The poet Cowper’s shoe buckles
In the 1790’s boots were also reintroduced and adopted as the new high fashion foot gear for men.

Costumedechevalen Gentleman in boots, 1786.    (Quicherat)

Women’s shoes in the 18th Century were divided into three categories: mules, or backless slippers, shoes, or closed foot gear, and pattens, outdoor shoe coverings which protected delicately made shoes.

shoe&clog1700s Shoe and “clog” type patten, c.1700


patten A “ring” Patten,

milliner's Mules…

…and shoes.

Women’s shoes had sharply pointed toes and high curved heels. Buckles were also a central attraction on women’s shoes.

english1700 kohlershoesBrocade shoe, English, c. 1700

mrscshoes milliner's

ladysshoe yeloshoe

quakerbrideshoes1771 A Quaker Bride’s shoes 1771

shoes1735,70,80 American shoes of 1735, 1770, & 1780

Women’s shoes were almost unchanging in shape (only narrowing the curved heels) from 1700 to 1780, when shoes took a dive to low heeled slippers.

polkadot slippers1800 bridal slippers, American c. 1800

By the late 1790’s, heels disappeared entirely and the soft, flat, square toed slipper which dominated the next 50 years of women’s shoes had appeared.


Image from Diderot’s Encyclopedia, c. 1762


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