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Pair of ankle boots

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (possibly, made)
    Germany (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    1851 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silk grosgrain, leather, elastic, lined with cotton

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Object Type
Ankle boots were introduced in about 1804 as fashionable women's wear. The fashion for square toes lasted from 1825 to the 1870s. These boots are made for the left and right foot. Howwever, until 1900, many women continued to wear straights (shoes which were not shaped to distinguish between left and right so that they could be worn on either foot).

Design & Designing
This pair of boots is almost identical to an image of the elastic-sided boot which is illustrated in the shoe designer/manufacturer J. Sparkes Hall's prospectus for the Great Exhibition of 1851 under the title 'Patent Elastic Articles for the Feet'. The elastic-sided boot was patented by J. Sparkes Hall of No.308 Regent Street in 1837 as a result of experiments made with india rubber cloth. By 1850, techniques for making the elastic gussets had much improved, although the elastic on the examples from the Great Exhibition has now perished.

J. Sparkes Hall presented his prototypes for elastic-sided boots to Queen Victoria. In his prospectus he claimed that she 'walks in them daily and thus gives the strongest proof of the value she attaches to the invention'.

Physical description

Pair of woman's ankle boots of ivory silk grosgrain (a ribbed silk) with elastic inner side gusset. The toe cap is square in shape and is made from silk. The heels are slightly stacked and the soles are made of leather. The boot reaches to just above the ankle. Inside there is a card heel insert and the insoles are made of kid leather. The boots are lined with glazed cotton and each has a ribbon loop to help in putting them on. A seam runs down the front of the shoe to the toe cap.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (possibly, made)
Germany (possibly, made)


1851 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Silk grosgrain, leather, elastic, lined with cotton

Marks and inscriptions

Inscribed in pencil on the underside of the toe

Makers's mark stamped on the underside of the sole


Height: 0.5 cm heel, Length: 23 cm sole, Height: 13 cm base of heel to top of gusset, Width: 4.1 cm base of heel, Width: 4.6 cm across toe, Width: 3.5 cm waisted part of the sole

Object history note

This pair of ankle boots were made for the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Historical significance: From about 1804 ankle boots were introduced for women's fashionable wear and they became increasingly popular as the century progressed. They were made of fragile materials such as ribbed silk although leather ankle boots were also becoming more and more fashionable. Many women protected their boots from the dirt and damp by wearing overshoes known as pattens or clogs. The overshoe was usually flat with a square toe cap to match the shoes and had leather straps for fastening. Ankle boots went out of fashion during the 1880s.
The square toe became popular in about 1825. The fashion for square toes lasted until the 1870s when broad and rounded toes were favoured by both men and women. By the 1880s pointed toes were in fashion

Descriptive line

Pair of woman's ankle boots of silk grosgrain, possibly made in Great Britain or Germany, 1851

Labels and date

British Galleries:

The exhibiting shoemakers emphasised the variety of styles and novelty of construction of the shoes they showed. The elastic panels of these women's boots eliminated the need for laces and button fastenings and allowed the foot to move more freely. It was claimed that the Queen regularly wore this type of boot. The children's shoes are more traditional in design. [27/03/2003]

Production Note

Although this pair of boots was exhibited at the Great Exhibition in 1851 we cannot be certain of their actual date of manufacture.
In the registered description it states that these boots are possibly German. However the inventory record states that they are English.


Silk (textile); Elastic; Glazed cotton; Leather; Card


Footwear; Women's clothes; British Galleries; Great Exhibition; Textiles; Accessories; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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