Discover our world leading fashion archives, from 17th century shoes to original Chanel boater hats. Here is our chronology of shoes through the 19th Century
Laced ankle show for an infant
This laced ankle shoe was designed to be worn by an infant and is a part of a pair. It weighs just 0.20kg and is only 4cm wide. While the shoe is extremely soft and light, the lacing would have provided the foot with a protective layer and supportive structure. The shoe is made of leather and lined with linen, and dates from around 1820.
Blue silk boots
These blue silk boots, which date from the late 1850s, remain vibrant and eye catching. They weigh 0.6kg. The boots lace at the side and fasten at the ankle. They are made of silk, linen and leather. Due to their age and the fragility of the base material, the silk has shattered at several points on the boot, such as the heel.
Woman’s side-lacing ankle boot
While many of the shoes in the Cordwainer College Collection have been preserved as examples of technique and production and are therefore unworn, others are in less pristine condition but carry interesting impressions left by their wearers. This woman’s side-lacing ankle boot is made of kid leather and linen. Weighing just 1.04kg, the boot is very dainty and would originally have been a bright white. The leather is now tarnished and a mended expansion point has been created on the right hand side of the forefoot, presumably to allow for a bunion on the wearer’s foot. The boot dates from the 1850s-1870s.
Life Guard's boot
The Life Guards is the senior regiment of the British Army and part of the Household Cavalry. At 84cm high, this boot is an example of the thigh length boots which were worn as a part of their uniform. The boot is made of leather, wood and brass, and dates from the 1850s. The maker is unknown. The boot is photographed with its original wooden last to support its height and structure.
Woman’s ankle boot
This woman’s ankle boot dates from the 1870s. As well as fastening with seven buttons, the boot has an elastic panel on the inner side. The shoe is a single left foot, which means that either only one was produced by a Cordwainer College student or that the other piece of the pair was not preserved because the shoe was collected as an example of an interesting construction and technique. It is made of leather, elastic, linen and wood. To support the structure and height, the boot is photographed with its original wooden last.
Late 19th century bronze spur
As well as including examples of both men’s and women’s footwear, the Cordwainer College Collection holds tools, prototypes and accessories relating to shoes. This includes a number of spurs. This example is from the late 19th century and is made of bronze. This round spur would have been attached to the back of a boot, possibly for military wear. The wearer would have used it to direct the horse they were riding.
Gamba ballet shoe
These girl’s ballet shoes were made by Gamba, a British ballet shoe brand which was founded in 1903. Gamba created ballet shoes for many famous ballerinas and ballet companies in the early 20thcentury. On this pair, which was made in the 1930s, there are some signs of wear to the shoes around the toe, on the edging and on the ribbon lacings. The shoes are made of silk, leather and cotton, and were constructed by gluing and with both hand and machine sewing.
Orthopaedic Derby ankle boot
This man’s Derby ankle boot is an example of specialist orthopaedic footwear. It dates from the 1930s and is made of leather and cork. The main construction of the boot is very shallow and raised on a split level platform heel. The shoe is a single right foot, which means that either only one was produced by a Cordwainer College student or that the other piece of the pair was not preserved because the shoe was collected as an example of an interesting construction and technique.