Sunday, December 11, 2011

Shoe Sizes

The Middle Ages found both noble men and women in shoes of soft leather ornamented with jewels, gold and silver medallions, and embroidery. 

 

By the 12th century, the upper classes wore shoes of silk and velvet, some ornamented with pearls - brought back to Europe in Crusader's pouches - which became the favorite accessory of Eleanor of Aquitaine.  Shoes were blue, green, or even pink, but red was the favorite with both sexes.

Peasant footwear was much more down to earth, sometimes just a piece of leather tied around the foot and gathered at the ankle, like a pouch. 

  15th century child's shoe

 
  1300s Dutch leather shoe


In the 11th century French and Belgian peasants wore a wooden shoe called a sabot.  When angry serfs trampled their lord's crops, a new word was born to mean "intentional destruction" of the lord's crops: sabotage




By the 1300s, men took to poulaines or pointed shoes, inspired by the long, stuffed toes of chain mail. 


In 1386, Austrian knights fighting in the Battle of Sempach were forced to break the points off their shoes before leaping from their horses and battling on the ground.  Made of leather or sometimes velvet, poulaines could be 15 inches long or more.  Toes were stuffed with hay and wool; points were shaped with whalebone. 


 


The ultimate pointed shoe was the crackow (named for the Polish city), which was ridiculously long - up to 24 inches - but it was no joke.  Introduced by the courtiers Isabella of France brought with her when she married Richard II or England, the crackow grew so popular that it prompted a new sumptuary law - the wealthier the man, the longer the toes of his shoes could be.


Like men's footwear, women's shoes also got pointer during the Middle Ages,  and many took to soft, inner socklike liners to protect their feet from pinching. 
 


 Outdoors, both men and women wore loose pattens or galoches, thick wooden platforms attached to the feet with buckled straps. For a while these clunkers were worn indoors at the fashionable court of Burgundy. 



Both sexes also liked loose-fitting boots made of leather that were trimmed with lace, and stylish men often sported thigh-high, deep-cuffed models complete with cowboy spurs.

After hours (and for Christmas gift-giving) the well-heeled switched to slippers, which were invented in 1479 and so named because they were easy to slip on and off. 

 Shoes worn by Anne Boleyn

 Silken slipper mule

1600-1625 English Mule (house slippers)

The favorite colors were vermilion, purple and scarlet.

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