THE SOCIAL HISTORY OF FLATBUSH
by Gertrude Lefferts Vanderbilt
If Fashion stoops to select the color of the stocking, we can not expect
to have the shape of the shoe exempt from her tyranny.
With the bridal dress, to which we have referred as having been worn in
1780, there were also preserved two pairs of shoes. We may judge from these
of the style worn in full dress at this period. One pair was of dark,
maroon-colored silk, embroidered; the other was of pink satin. Both pairs
were very pointed at the toe, and the heels were at least two inches high,
and somewhat in shape of a flattened hour-glass.
Probably that shape was out of fashion for some 80 years; to-day we find
an approximation to it in the high heels placed almost under the instep,
which one sees in the window of the fashionable shoemaker. High-heeled shoes
passed out of fashion when that extreme was reached.
Slippers were always worn in full dress some thirty years ago, and high
boots were only used in the street. Afterward boots for ladies were made with
paper soles and of handsome material to match the dresses, and then slippers
were for a time out of fashion. These thin boots were laced up at the side.
Buttoned boots were first used some 15 or 10 years ago.
The thick, coarse shoes worn before India-rubber overshoes were made were
not sufficient to keep the feet dry in stormy weather, and it is only since
the present perfected use of gum overshoes that there is entire protection
India-rubber shoes and boots were unknown in the time of our
grandmothers; they are comparatively a recent invention. They were at first
bulky and stiff, but now such a degree of elasticity has been attained that,
whether in the shape of sandal or high shoe, they are pliable, light and strong.
Before and even a few years later than 1800, the shoes for the farmer's
family were made in his house. The skins of the calves killed on his farm
were sent to the tanner, who reserved a certain share for his own pay and of
the remainder the boots and shoes were made by a shoemaker who came to the
house for that purpose. At such times the whole family, including master and
mistress, children and slaves, were supplied with common shoes for ordinary use.
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