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Pair of ankle boots

  • Place of origin:

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

  • Date:

    ca. 1851 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silk stockinette, leather, lined with silk, cotton, hand-stitched

  • 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. However, 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).

Historical Associations
Many of the British shoemakers who exhibited at the Great Exhibition stressed the variety of styles they had to offer and the novelties of their construction. These boots, for example, are made of stockinette which derives its name from a stocking stitch originally used to make socks and stockings. One shoe manufacturer, J. Sparkes Hall, was listed in The Official and Descriptive Catalogue as exhibiting 'elastic stocking-net' boots.

Design & Designing
There was widespread evidence of the harm caused by rigid, tight-fitting shoes and boots. Shoe manufacturers who exhibited at the Great Exhibition stressed the importance of the health and comfort of the foot. J. Sparkes Hall and James Dowie wrote publicity material on how their supple shoes and boots corresponded to the anatomical form of the foot, allowing it to move freely without constraint. Small cotton loops were often attached inside ankle boots to help with pulling them on.

Physical description

Pair of woman's ankle boots made of brown silk stockinette with a frill of the same material around the top. The lining is made of elasticated silk. The toe cap is square in shape and is made from brown leather. The heels are slightly stacked and the soles are made of leather. The boots reach to just above the ankle. Inside there is a card heel insert and the insoles are made of glazed cotton. Each of the boots had two tapes (front and back) to help in putting them on.

Place of Origin

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


ca. 1851 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Silk stockinette, leather, lined with silk, cotton, hand-stitched

Marks and inscriptions

Makers marks inscribed on the underside of the sole


Length: 24.7 cm sole, Height: 13.6 cm heel to frill, Width: 5.6 cm base of heel, Width: 5.4 cm toe cap, Width: 4.7 cm waisted part of the sole, Height: 0.7 cm heel

Object history note

This pair of ankle boots was 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 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 shoe 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 made of silk stockinette, possibly made in Great Britain or Germany, ca. 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.


Silk; Elastic; Leather; Card; Glazed cotton




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


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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