A MEDIEVAL WOMAN'S LIFE - AT HOME
- BIRTHS - WEDDINGS - DIVORCE - DEATHS - MANNERS - EDUCATION - EMPLOYMENT
CLOTHES - ITEMS OF CLOTHING - DRESS ACCESSORIES FABRICS & SEWING BEAUTY, HEALTH & HYGIENE MY TALKS MY SEWING MY ARTIFACTS BIBLIOGRAPHY LINKS
LEATHER SHOES - FABRIC SHOES - SLIPPERS - SANDALS - WOODEN PATTENS
Shoes were worn by all classes of woman, even the very poor. Only the quality of the materials and fine details varied. The purpose and basic design of the shoes remained the same. Margherita Datini's wardrobe in 1339 lists among her footwear, wooden pattens with leather laces and one pair of backless leather slippers with thick soles called pianelles. Her regular shoes are not mentioned.
The fashionable shoe was made to fit the foot with an elongated piece over the big toe side of the front. The shoes were known in England as crackows and the shaped fronts poulains, although many times the shoes are simply listed as poulains, particularly by the French where it word indicated the country of the origin of the style- Poland. This term also indicates they are the shoes with the pointed toes. The Museum of London have excavated a large number of these shoes and one has been recovered complete with the moss stuffing inside the toes. It is assumed that this stuffing provided a certain amount of rigidness to the shoe and helped the toe retain it's shape. The image at right shows the shoe and it's stuffing.
There were two basic methods of shoe construction in the middle ages. The first comprised a shoe which stitched it's upper directly onto the sole with the stitching visible on the outside. The other, known as a turned shoe is constructed inside out and then turned the right way out after the sewing was completed. A further sole could be added, but was not a necessity. In order to turn the shoe once the stitching was completed, it was soaked in a bucket of water until it softened enough to allow maneuvering. Care was needed not to stretch the shoe out of shape or tear the leather. Once it was dry again, the leather returned to it's original stiffness.
medieval shoes have been excavated from the river in London. Most are
of similar shape- some with less pointy toes and others with decorative
embossing, cutwork or tooling on the uppers. Some of these can be seen
at left. In 1313, Anicia atte Hegge, a widow from Hampshire made a will
made on the surrendering of her holding to her son included the stipulation
that, among other things, would be provided with various items including
a pair of shoes worth 6d each year.
There is no record that I have seen of women owning or wearing long boots similar to those worn by men in the 14th century. Certainly townswomen and noble ladies did not seem to. Ankle boots were possibly worn by country women. In the 12th to 14th century, heavy shoes of undressed leather were worn by English peasants. These were called revelins or riveling or slops and were constructed of raw hide with the hair on the outside.
Although this sample is 200 years before the high medieval period, it demonstrates the high level of skill utilized in the construction of the shoe itself. The shoe appears lined and has a drawstring around the ankle. The sides seem quite rigid and a separate sole is evident. Gold thread embroidery can be seen and gemstones have been stitched on.
It would appear that shoes made for special occasion which were highly embellished could also possibly be worn by ladies of high status who also had the ability and the funds to do so.
Shown at right is a 15th century sandals from a London excavation made from leather. The sandal has a bronze buckle and a strap between the toes and over the forefoot- the design which persists today.
The detail at the left is taken from the 1485 Memling painting of Bathsheba. It shows a naked woman getting out of her bath and stepping into some household slippers which would not look out of place in any modern household today although it it not possible to ascertain the material of the slippers themselves.
In the household accounts of King Edward III, there is listed a gift of clothing to a lady of Brittany, which included eighteen pairs of leather gloves and eighteen pairs of slippers.
Margherita Datini the wife of a wealthy Italian merchant, in her 1339 household accounts, lists among her footwear, wooden pattens with leather laces.
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