The nineteenth-century witnessed several important breakthroughs in various fields and the realm of fashion was no exception. Shoes became more comfortable and specifically made to fit into the right and left foot. Until this development, women wore tight fitted, straight shoes. Only the aristocrats could afford to customise the shoes according to their feet measurements. Soon, people began to pay more attention to footwear and the production of shoes increased, especially because the first world war was taking place during that period and people had to be given enough protection. Gradually, the variety of shoes available increased, and shoes like light tennis shoes, heavy boots to leather boots became popular.
For centuries, the basic purpose of wearing boots has been to protect their feet. However, towards the beginning of the 1910s, more focus on given into making the shoes appear attractive and eye-catching. As we all know, fashion ebbs and flows. There have been some drastic improvements in the footwear of the early 1910s. In this article, we are going to examine the characteristics of footwear during the 1910s and the major footwear styles prevalent during the age. Also, we will have a glance at the further improvement in the style of shoes as the 1910s came to an end.
Women’s Footwear during the 1910s
Edwardian shoes witnessed increasing diversities in style and design as the age progressed. As time passed by, no longer did women confine themselves to wearing pull-on, laced up or button up boots all day. Gradually other varieties of shoe styles like the Oxford shoe, Mary Jane, Oxford slippers, pumps, etc. became popular. Mostly, the mary Jane or Oxford shoes were for home use while the slippers and pumps were for occasions. Sometimes even Mary Jane’s shoes were worn to parties and gatherings, pairing with a short skirt and tunic. What made the shoes look gorgeous was the ornamentation. Different shoes were differently ornamented. The shoes were dyed to match their colours with the colour of the outfits. Formal shoes had embroidery or beadworks. Some had fine silk prints or glass beads embellished on them. Not only these, pompom, buckles, multiple straps, and bows were also used to decorate the shoes.
The 1910s were undoubtedly a transitory period in terms of fashion, mostly characterized by Edwardian styles. As time passed, the Edwardian touch slowly faded away and new trends came in to take its place. The styles also became relaxed and more comfortable. For bringing in a new fashion, designers like Coco Chanel, Paul Poiret, and other Eminent designers deserve all the credit. They redesigned women’s fashion and made it more fluid than ever. In the 1910s, there were varieties of Edwardian shoes available. Let’s have a look at the prominent Edwardian styled footwear prevalent during the 1910s.
Edwardian women’s boots
The typical button-up or lace-up tall boots were generally secured up. Boots were usually made from dark brown or black leather, some having canvassed or embroidered fabrics inserted into the Shaft. By the mid-1910s, two-tone boots in black and ivory or black and white became popular. Earlier the boots were mostly fussy designed but later a variety of pull-on styles were available in the market.
Similar to Victorian women, women during the Edwardian period also continued to wear a button-up tall boots. Boots were the prime footwear type of the period. Ivory or white coloured boots were worn to evening parties. For general use, women wore black coloured casual boots. If you have a look at the boots worn at the beginning of the 1910s and the ones worn towards the end of the period, you would notice considerable changes in the design of the arch, toe, and heel. Some Edwardian women’s shoes featured high, curved heels, although, during the times of the war, every woman wore high, laced up boots having lower wedge heels and round toes.
The Chelsea boot was another variety of boot that was found during the age. It featured a few plastic panels on both sides and pull tabs on the back and front. Unlike button or lace-up boots, the Chelsea boots could be slipped on and off. Mostly they were used as a home or garden boot. Not only did the young wore them, but also elderly women wore Chelsea boots.
Apart from the Edwardian boots, which was the prime footwear type all through the 1910s, the Oxford shoe was yet another hugely popular shoe style prevalent during the 1910s. Oxford shoes had moderately high heels and a shoelace up the vamp. A flat Oxford shoe or a less heeled one was mostly used by working women. Such shoes were extremely comfortable and easy to be worn and maintained. Besides boots, another favourite shoe of women was the Edwardian Oxford shoe, because they provide women with comfort. Most Oxford shoes had a toe cap. Generally, women paired Oxford shoes with informal skirts and a blouse. They were worn to casual occasions, either when inside the house or while going for a walk. The Oxford shoe continues to be in fashion, even to date. Women love to wear them because they are highly comfortable and because they are sophisticated and have been a classic staple for every woman’s collection. The best part about Oxford shoes is that they come on both high and low heels.
Edwardian slippers and pumps
Edwardian slippers exhibited a sense of snobbishness, luxury, and aristocracy. They weren’t only restricted to bedrooms. Women wore them to parties, weddings, dance parties, and dinners. There were several types and styles of Edwardian slippers available in those times. One of the most famous styles was Mary Jane shoes. We have talked about Mary Jane later in this article. A few Edwardian slippers had multiple straps or a single big flap across the vamp. The slippers that were specially designed to be worn to evening parties had heavy beadings on them to make them sparkle. The colonial shoe was another popular style that became popular. We have also talked about it later.
Apart from slippers, Pumps were simple yet fancy shoes that came up in this period. Pumps were a classy example of footwear having no laces nor straps. They were only worn to occasions where women had to stand throughout. They weren’t at all suited for dances or walks, because of their style. Pumps were moderately high heeled, mostly made up of leather having an upper portion covering one’s toes. The shoe covered the side of the foot and the portion behind the heel, leaving the surface of the foot exposed. These shoes were snugly fitted and extremely adaptable and were available in a plethora of shades. Also, they were diversely ornamented with various items like ribbons, buckles, sometimes beads, and other ornaments. In short, the pump continued to be one of the most preferred dress shoes by women all through the 1910s. Similar to present-day pump shoes, the 1910 pump shoes slip- in-style having decorations on the toe portion. Any extra feature like a buckle, pompom, shoe clip, or other sparkling element was added to the shoe to add to its glamour.
Mary Janes and Louis heels
The most common and popular Edwardian slipper that women wore at nights to weddings, dinners, and clubs was Mary Jane. It was popularly known as the Edwardian evening shoe. The shoe had a single strap, covering the vamp and secured by a button. Mostly the button was made up of metal, bone, pearl, crystal, or plastic. Mary Jane shoes are extremely expensive and luxurious because they are designed with lots of beadworks. Some of the mary Jane slippers featured multiple straps or a large single button across the vamp. Apart from this popular style, colonial was another shoe style that was quite popular among women during the 1910s. It’s named so because the shoe features a style similar to the 18th-century shoe designs. Of course, not all colonial shoes were the same. Some had a classic slip in style, without lacing or strap while others had decorations in the form of a shoe clip, pom-pom, buckle, etc. Others had sparkly items added to them to enhance their luxury.
Features of women’s footwear during the 1910s
Now that we have covered the popular footwear of those times, let’s have a look into the basic features of women’s footwear.
- Most women’s footwear of those times was similar to the styles of church shoes of men, but a few feminine touches like thin heels, round shapes, and decorative bows were added to most shoes.
- In the evening, women mostly wore the Edwardian slippers or court shoes having small decorated heels. Some of them even have beadings on them.
- One major trend of the 1910s was the evening shoes being decorated with rhinestones, metal sequins, beadwork or painted with contrasting shades.
- In place of a thin strap, some Mary Jane shoes had eyelets, through which a ribbon was passed and secured to a bow on top. It’s amazing to see Mary Jane’s shoes never go out of trend and fashion since then. Even today one can easily spot them and are as popular as they were in the 1910s and 1920s.
- Towards the end of the 1800s, another shoe style called the Louise heel gained popularity. The shoe was named after the then 18th-century king of France, King Louis XIV. The shoe reflected a romantic style and continued to be worn by women not only in the 1910s but also in the 1920s.
- A few footwear designers of the age made an effort to create other interesting, attractive styles. They thought of blending coloured gabardine or canvases with leather to design the dual-toned Spectator. Suede rose to popularity and ballet style pumps also became staple footwear of the age.
- They were decorated using several items like marcasite filigree, diamanté, etc. After the agreement following the end of the first world war was signed and peace was ensured, fashion trends changed quickly to shed off the wartime austerity. New designs were embraced, completely different from what people wore during the 1910s.
By now you must have understood that fashion during 1910 was featured by soft silhouettes, big hats, bob cut hair, and full-length dresses. Shoes were high heeled. Most women wore tunic pairing it up with a long skirt and long boots. Skirts were broader at the hips and narrowed down towards the ankle. Throughout the day, most women wore boots while a court shoe at night. In 1917, the first women sneaker was designed by Keds.
After continuing to wear boots and full-length dresses since 1910, women wanted to show off their feet during the 1920s. Hence the T strapped shoes came up, becoming the most popular shoes of the roaring twenties. As the name goes, the shoe features a single T bar in the front through which passes the strap. The design is stylish enough and stayed on the wearer’s foot securely, giving maximum exposure to the skin. As the decade progressed, straps started to become thinner and were designed with metal sequins or geometric shapes made from precious stones. Also, more skin was shown off by designing the shoes with more cutouts on all sides and toes. Mostly during the 1910s, women wore brown, black, or white coloured footwear. With time, they chose to wear colourful shoes and slippers. Also, by the end of 1910, dyed satin and silk were introduced. The heels of several shoes were found to be gold, blue, silver, and red coloured. Greek or Asian motifs also could be spotted.