“Yes, I know exactly what you will say: Friday, went to the Lower Rooms; wore my sprigged muslin robe with blue trimmings — plain black shoes — appeared to much advantage; but was strangely harassed by a queer, half-witted man, who would make me dance with him, and distressed me by his nonsense.” Northanger Abbey Regency Footwear Jane Austen mentions shoes more often than purses in her work and as any woman knows, the shoes make the outfit! It may come as a surprise to many readers to discover that shoes worn during the Regency did not differ much from what is worn today. Previously, both men and women wore what are now know as Court Shoes—high heeled pumps made of leather or brocade fastened with a large buckle. These elaborate shoes were in keeping with the highly stiffened and embroidered fashions of the day. As dress styles changed, however, shoes did as well. In the year 1800, any sensible young lady of fashion would have had at least three pair of shoes—one for everyday wear, slippers for dancing in and boots for walking. This is a minimum, of course– Empress Josephine of France owned 520 pairs of shoes! Jessamyn Reeves-Brown, a Regency fashion enthusiast, has done careful research in this area. A glimpse of her page on shoes reveals a fascinating walk through fashion history, outlining the decline of the pointed toes and heels of the early Regency and a progression towards a more ballet slipper style of shoe.
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