This is one of the most beautiful examples in our collection. Though it sports an opera heel – so common in the very early part of the Edwardian Era, it has the detail and flourishes of Victorian styling. Made from ultra-soft kid, it was beautifully preserved due to its owner stuffing it with fluffy wool and, perhaps, keeping it out of the attic!
The laces, fortunately, are made from flat cotton with crimped metal tips – round laces would have hurt that angry little bone that sticks out on the inside of everyone’s ankle!
The aglets (holes where the laces go through) are richly embroidered and are so uniform that it’s obvious they were rendered with a machine (so many parts of any shoe are rendered by hand – even today – for instance; the moc-toe of today’s loafers are all sewn by hand using 2 needles in concert). The toe ornamentation is clearly machine-rendered.
This pair was clearly owned by someone rich enough to buy the finer things. Which brings up the lack of logos on early, clearly manufactured, shoes. From what I can see, so many shoes and boots made for the mass market in the late 1800s were made to order. The only thing you’ll find inside the throat of the footwear is handwritten numbers – marking, no doubt, the style, size and order number requested by the customer.
The 1902 Powell Bros. catalog page below beautifully illustrates the choices one had.
You can see that by 1902 the opera heel is “out” and the straight military heel is “in”.
Note that this particular model was for women with ultra-wide feet. “E” is know in the biz as “Eddie” as in the very wide “Triple-Eddie”. His less wide brothers are Al, Benny, Charley, and Dave.
I just found this adorable article about shoe salesman’s lingo from the 1934 New York Times!