18th Century, 19th Century

Regency sandals

A while ago someone asked me about Regency sandals.  Why do we see so many in fashion plates, but so few extent pairs?

Well, I suspect the ratio is quite similar to most items seen in fashion plates vs. extent items.  Fashion plates (and fashion magazines today) always show the most avant -garde and extreme fashion, and few ladies ever reached that level of modish dress.

In addition, contemporary sources seem to indicate that wearing sandals was rather noteworthy, and maybe just a little bit scandalous, so there probably was a lot more talking about them than actually owning and wearing them.

We can see the scandalousness conotations of sandals illustrated in the famous Boilly image of a rakish Incroyable meeting his female counterpart, the  Merveilleuse.  In her transparent dress even the radical Incroyable mistakes her for a prostitute and offers her money, while she shows a modesty not apparent in her attire and makes the sign of a cross with her fingers to indicate her shock and virtue.

Louis Leopold Boilly, Incroyable et Merveilleuse in Paris, 1797

While they are hard to find, there must have been a few naughty woman, as there are some extent pairs of Regency sandals, just not very many.  And a few pairs of almost sandals.  And then some that are probably not actually Regency sandals at all.

Here is a darling pink pair from the Met:

Shoes, 1806-15, E. Pattison (British, 1800—1850), Met Museum, 2001.576ab

And a white satin-over leather pair from the Bata Shoe Museum (image from Dawn Luckham and the Regency Society of America boards):

Silk and leather sandals, 1795-1805, Bata Shoe Museum

And a red leather pair from the Manchester City Galleries:

Red leather sandals, 1800-1825, Mancherster City Galleries

A lot of Regency sandals are really more like slippers with elaborate lacing patterns.

Pair of 'Grecian Sandals' in a shoe bag, circa 1818, England, LACMA

This pair of slipper-sandals from the MFA Boston is quite cunning, if barely sandal-like:

Sandal slippers, 1810-15, MFA Boston, 99.664.37a-b

This gorgeously detailed pair is slightly more sandal like:

Sandals, ca 1805-10 France (worn in America), MFA Boston

This fashion plate shows a similar laced slipper.  Was it the proper woman’s alternative to the sandal?

Morning dress, London, Sept 1798

In the category of not actually Regency sandals at all, Te Papa has a pair that are listed as ca 1800, but I have inspected them in person myself, and suspect they are actually early 20th century Scottish dancing shoes, which is probably why they aren’t included in their online catalogue!


  1. Also, given this is Eurpoe we are talking about, not much call for sandals even in summer! hehehe. I love the idea of Scottish dancing shoes being mistaken for Regency. And I love these sandals. How clever to compromise with elaborately laced shoes – the sturdiness and protection of a shoe with the fanciful whatnottery of the lacing!

    • Oh, come on, Europe isn’t so bad! You should heve been in Estonia this summer! 😀

      OK… isn’t it interesting how many of those The Dreamstress has found are pink or red? Does it have something to do with the scandalousness of the item?

  2. Very nice pictures, thanks! It can be hard to get good pictures of historical shoes, particularly unusual styles of historical shoes such as this one, and being able to view them here is wonderful.

  3. The sandals from the Bata look a bit like classical Roman sandal-like shoes, and that’s relevant because during the Regency, classical Roman and Greek themes were very fashionable in women’s clothing design.

    • Woops! Sorry, that is what this whole post is basically about, but I sort-of forgot to note it for those not so engaged in historical fashions, so thanks for filling things in!

  4. Stella says

    I want those LACMA sandals.

    Interesting how some of these are a lot like modern fashion sandals; perhaps this is where the inspiration comes from.

    • Elise says

      I want all of them. But I’ll let you claim the LACMA ones.

  5. These are so neat! I don’t know that I’ve seen a pair of original shoes like this before. They’re fabulous! Thanks for posting about them.

  6. I like the red shoes. Seems the modern shoes I bought for my regency outfit do fit in…they have ankle strap with a buckle.

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