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Opera boots

Opera boots

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1840s (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Black leather, with suede leg and silk bow, hand- and machine-sewn

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Messrs Harrods Ltd.

  • Museum number:

    T.494&A-1913

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Object Type
Opera boots were also known as 'Dress Wellingtons' and were often worn when going out to dinner, the theatre, opera and other social evening occasions. Although they were shaped like a boot, they would have resembled a dress shoe when worn under trousers.

Materials & Making
Many opera boots had bows attached, and the uppers were often made of different textures of leather to give the appearance of a dress shoe worn over a stocking. Some even had silk stocking legs laid over the leather to give even more of a stocking-like effect.

Historical Associations
'Dress Wellingtons' were named after Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852). Wellingtons first appeared at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, when the army became more socially visible and military costume influenced fashionable dress. Another boot with military links was the Blucher, a laced boot named after the Prussian General Gebhart von BlĀcher, who played a decisive role alongside Wellington in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Other
An anonymous cavalry officer described how this style of boot could be used as a substitute for shoes in his book The Whole Art of Dress (1830):

'This boot is invented, doubtless, for the mere purpose of saving trouble in dress; for without attending to silk stockings or the trouble of tying bows, you have merely to slip on the boots, and you are neatly equipped in a moment.'

Physical description

Pair of boots

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)

Date

1840s (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Black leather, with suede leg and silk bow, hand- and machine-sewn

Dimensions

Height: 35 cm, Width: 9 cm, Length: 28 cm

Object history note

Made in Britain

Descriptive line

Black leather boot

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Opera boots were fashionable for evening wear as they looked like a smart shoe with a stocking attached. They also saved time when getting dressed. The wearer could slip on the boot under his trousers without having to worry about putting on silk stockings. [27/03/2003]

Materials

Leather

Techniques

Shoe-making

Categories

Footwear; Europeana Fashion Project

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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