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Pair of boots

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (possibly, made)
    France (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    1865-1875 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Leather, silk trimmed with bobbin lace and silk ribbon, cotton and wool

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dr F. Spencer

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    On short term loan out for exhibition []

The red boots, which are of ribbed silk, come up above the ankle and have a 'military' style heel covered in silk to match the uppers. They have lacing at the back and are trimmed at the top with bobbin lace and ribbons.

Frivolous boots of silk and silk satin, some with high heels, were imported into England from France in the 1860s and 1870s. These French styles were also imitated by English shoemakers. The French influence was due to the stylish Empress Eugenie who had married the French emperor, Napoleon III, in 1853. She was probably responsible for the introduction of the shorter skirt which led to a greater emphasis on stockings and shoes.

Additionally, by about 1860 chemical aniline dyes were widely available. Many of the colours they provided were rather gaudy, such as this bright red.

Physical description

Pair of ladies' boots of scarlet ribbed silk trimmed with cream bobbin lace and crimson silk ribbon, and lined with white kid. The boots are above ankle length, are 'straights' and have a rounded pointed toe and a covered 'military' heel. They are made in two pieces with a seam up the centre front of the foot. They have a lace fastening at the centre back of the heel with a tongue. The eyelet holes are hand worked. The lace trimming around the top is arranged in a gathered frill with the made up ribbon bow attached at the front. This made be an addition to the original design to match it to the dress. The 'sock' is of cotton. The sole is of beige kid with an impressed design of a gold cornucopia of flowers under the instep and a flower on the centre of the sole, possibly covering the 'sole-stamp'. The boots are machine stitched. There are woollen laces but it is not certain that these are original.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (possibly, made)
France (possibly, made)


1865-1875 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Leather, silk trimmed with bobbin lace and silk ribbon, cotton and wool


Height: 22 cm, Width: 5.5 cm, Length: 22.5 cm

Object history note

RF File: 84/201

Descriptive line

Pair of ladies' boots of leather and silk trimmed with bobbin lace, possibly made in Great Britain or France, 1865-1875

Labels and date

Label for the exhibition Shoes: Pleasure and Pain

Tight lacing excites desire because it at once constrains and carries the promise of release. Both the tying and untying can have a strong sexual charge. These boots share similarities with the corsets of the period – high-lacing at the back and bobbin lace cascading over the top. The red colour is a daring choice, and would have flashed tantalisingly underneath long skirts.

Red boots
About 1870
England or France
Silk, lace and leather
Given by Dr F. Spencer
V&A: T.180&A-1984 [2015-2016]
Red silk boot trimmed with bobbin lace
British or French, about 1870
Museum number: T.180A-1984
Given by Dr. F. Spencer [2007]


Leather; Silk (textile)


Bobbin lace making


Accessories; Fashion; Footwear; Evening wear; Women's clothes; Leather; Lace; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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