Sunday, July 24, 2011

What Does a Newbie Need? Let's start with Shoes!

Getting started in 18th Century re-enacting, what do you really need? That is a frequently asked question as new people enter the re-enacting world.  Let's start from the bottom up with shoes!  The focus of all newbie posts will be the Rev War time period.


Shoes are one of the biggest expenses a newcomer makes when starting out.  It is part of the outlay of entering the hobby and it can be expensive to provide shoes to an entire family when first starting out.  It is one of the items that you must purchase and cannot make for yourself without training.

 This pair of shoes was sold at the Karen Augusta Auctions, dated to the 1770s,  it is one of those rare common shoes that survives.  Simple leather shoes are not in abundance for study, so it is especially helpful to view this pair with such good closeup views.
This heel is described as an Italian heel as the style of heel is progressing from the earlier Louis heel which lands more to the back of the foot.
The Female Bruiser,  c1770

The Female Bruiser, c1770
The above images are details from several British Satires online at the Lewis Walpole Library, if you follow the links you will see the full image of the print.  Notice that the lower class woman waiting to be hired as a servant has a lower clunkier heel than the others, but it still is a higher heel than a man's shoe.  Most of the shoes have rectangular buckles, one has a ribbon rosette in lieu of a buckle.

Sources for Shoes!

There are vendors for historical footwear online and sutlers at Revolutionary War Events.  If you have extremely hard to fit feet, it might be advantageous to wait for an event that you will attending and try on the shoes if at all possible.

Sarah Juniper
Sarah is well known in the re-enacting world for her custom made shoes.  Located in Great Britain, she takes custom orders via mail (not email) and her prices reflect the labor and materials of hand made shoes.  Prices begin at 178GBP

Advantage: High Quality, Custom Fit, Choice of fabric or leather uppers
Disadvantage: Expensive, Currency Exchange not favorable, Overseas Transaction

Burnley and Trowbridge

Offers an excellent choice of leather heeled and low heeled shoes and slippers for women.  These shoes are high quality leather, very well made and durable.  The price is extremely reasonable for such a fine quality shoe. Prices  $90.00 -$120.00

Advantage: High Quality, Choice of Leather Color, Excellent Customer Service, Timely Delivery
Disadvantage: Not available in half sizes


An online vendor with a variety of historical footwear Fugawee offers machine made shoes that are well made and durable.  The Connie style is the best choice for the Rev War time period, with the Debbie as the next best choice.  Prices begin at $85.00

Advantage: Available in half sizes, Good Quality
Disadvantage: Internet sales

American Duchess

New to the marketplace, American Duchess is now offering a satin shoe with a choice of custom dye colors known as "Georgiana".  A good option for fancy dress and indoor events, since up until this time only expensive custom shoes were available in any sort of color besides brown, black or red.  Shoes will be offered in leather in the near future.   Prices begin at $100.00

Advantage: Custom Colors, Available in half sizes, Excellent customer service and return policy
Disadvantage: Internet sales

Flying Canoe Traders
These sutlers will not sell shoes through the mail unless you have already had the opportunity to try them on for fit.  Low heeled and rubber soled, these shoes work for lower class impressions.  Prices begin at $160.00

Advantage: Extremely durable and comfortable, Sizes available for trying on
Disadvantage: Rubber soles,  Available only at re-enactments

Standards..Who Needs Them!

There is a current buzz in the 18th Century re-enacting community about clothing "Standards", how to impose,  why have them at all, elitism as a result of standards, the debate goes on and on and on and on.........

It is the belief of this member of the Hive that "Standards"are a good thing!  Standards allows everyone to know up front the rules of the game, so we are all playing the same song, rowing in the same direction, driving down the same road, etc etc. But meeting those standards without the support of programs, presentations and workshops by peers, subject matter experts and experienced re-enactors is very difficult, mistakes can be costly and also dim enthusiasm for change as money and time is wasted.

It is also very important to allow time for change, imposing clothing standards over several years is the path to success.  Sudden imposition of rules from on high can accomplish two things: annoy and aggravate long time re-enactors or frighten newbies into thinking they can never be good enough!

For many of us our 18th century life encompasses more than the occasional event, it is our passion, hobby, social life and sometimes even an occupation.  Some can construe that as elitism, but in my experience, those who know the most about things 18th Century are the quickest to share their knowledge, help with a project or provide sound advice.  The snarks are generally those with little knowledge and research who for some reason believe their limited experience allows them to intimidate others and make them feel inferior.  

The Hive will be soon beginning it's seventh season of programs and workshops and it is always our goal to provide a welcoming environment for learning and sharing information.

Comments are welcome, but must be moderated due to the odd people of this world who feel a keyboard entitles them to make anonymous rude remarks.

Best Regards, Worker Bee Hallie