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Embroidery Inspiration – Shoes

I love pretty footwear from all eras, but beautifully embroidered shoes have a special place in my heart. Perhaps it’s because shoes are one of the few pieces of clothing or accessories I’ve never made, and when combined with embroidery, they seem tantalizingly unattainable. In past centuries both hand embroidery and hand-made footwear were much more common, so luckily there are many lovely examples to drool over.

These mules from the early 17th c. are a gorgeous example. Every inch of the fabric is covered with polychrome silk embroidery and metal threads in an intricate floral design. I can only imagine how stunning they were when new.  The Met. Mules, linen, silk, metallic, leather, British

This pair of linen shoes, c. 1710, is a beautiful example of Elizabethan embroidery. The plaited swirls of goldwork are filled in with a variety of floral motifs. The knotted surface stitches used to make the flowers are typical of embroidery from this period. 

These 1690-1700 French beauties are, perhaps surprisingly, men’s shoes. Their incredibly stylized shape makes them intriguing enough, but the embroidery takes them to a whole different level. The Met.

Shoes, silk, leather, French

Here’s a pair of early 18th c. women’s mules that have a similar shape at the toe, and a dramatically arched heel. The salmon colored silk has been embellished with silver embroidery and a fancy braid. MFA. 

This dainty pair of slippers from 1790 is one of my dream pairs. The apple green accented with pink and aqua embroidery and trim is so delicate and feminine. The tiny insets look like they could be tambour embroidery. The Met.Slippers, silk, probably British

I’d also love to recreate this pair of pink satin slippers from 1850-60. I’m a sucker for pink and green together, and that fuzzy chenille bow is so lovely. A slipper like this might actually be possible to reproduce at home, since it has less structure than a pair of outdoor shoes. V&A.

These dainty girl’s shoes are canvas embroidered with wool needlepoint dahlias and roses. The adorable chevron detail on the strap and the green ribbon binding complement the embroidery perfectly. V&A.

These silk satin boudoir shoes were part of a wedding trousseau. Can you imagine what other loveliness might have been part of it? The embroidered clusters of bows and delicate purple ribbons are quite charming, and I hope they had a fabulous dressing gown that matched. LACMA.

Last, but definitely not least, I’ll leave you with this trio of 1920s satin slippers by the French designer, Pinet. They seem just the thing to wear with a robe de style or gown by Boué Soeurs.

Do you have a favorite pair of embroidered shoes? I’d love to see them in the comments!

I’ve pinned many more examples of to my Pinterest page, and will be sharing some of them throughout the week on Facebook.

Resources:

American Duchess has included several embroidered shoes in their seasonal collections, such as embroidered mules and 1920s heels. Their current offering is a Regency slipper with a delicately embroidered toe*.

If you’d like to try your hand at making your own shoes, Every Lady Her Own Shoemaker is a period resource on the subject.

Many mid-1800s slipper embroidery patterns can be found on Pinterest.

Here are a few books on the history of shoes. Not all the shoes will be embroidered, but you may find a few gems in each.

 

*Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you choose to make a purchase. These are marked with an * after the product name. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers, and I do not recommend products solely to get a commission.

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