Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lady's London Shoe, 1720-1740

Photograph: Ellen McDermott Photography
Collection: Strawbery Banke Museum
Featured: Passion for Fashion, Strawbery Banke Museum and Rowland Gallery, May 1st 2012-October 31st, 2012

The lady’s shoe pictured above is a brocaded silk with a polychrome floral motif, set against a cream background. It is trimmed with a narrow green braid, lined with linen and has a leather sole. Note the upturned pointed toe, and the thick and weighty heel. When taken together, the shoe has an elegant profile and pleasing dimensions distinctive of high style London fashion of the early decades of the 18th century.

There are two distinguishing elements associated with the shoe: First is the custom-made patten for the shoe, of a quality which is a rare find, designed to protect the shoe when worn out of doors. Second is the survival of a partial interior label reading in part “James Davis. Shoe Makers. Near Utgate(?). London.” Foot apparel (it cannot really be considered “footwear” in our current vernacular) not unlike this model, would have been found in fashionable seacoast cities from Charleston and Philadelphia, to Baltimore, Newport, Boston and Portsmouth.

Taken as an art object alone, the shoe exhibits a strong profile, intense color, multi layered textures, and a clear sense of design. Even as this London-fabricated shoe celebrates its 3rd century, its style is compelling to the contemporary viewer and alluring to all who have wanted to feel the graciousness of past eras in their own time – an excellent possibility for inspiring contemporary designers.

Dimensions: 9.5” long with a 2.5” heel


  1. Further research by Collections Intern, Bridget Swift, reveals that the label in the shoe is probably referring to James Davis "Aldgate" and that he apprenticed during the 1730s-1740s. Information courtesy of the Cordwainers College, London

  2. The Northhampton Museum of the UK just contacted us saying they have a James Davis in their Shoemaker's Index reading:James Davis, cordwainer
    Aldgate, London
    Mentioned in the London Poll Book, 1768
    They said also there are other shoes make by Davis in the Met Museum and also in the Royal Ontario Museum. More infor to follow!