The Ladies' Tea Guild

Friday, December 11, 2009

Dickens Fair costuming for women: stockings and shoes.

Moniteur de la Mode. 1855.
Sorry for the lag in posting! I lost my Internet access for a week and couldn't finish my research or post anything up! Here is the next section of Dickens Fair costume information: shoes and stockings.

While ideally, your dress will be long enough to cover your feet most of the time, you'll need your skirt to be short enough so that you don't step on it, and that means that your shoes and socks will show somewhat. Stockings should be black or white and can be modern tights or nylons, since they will be almost completely hidden. Knee-highs and regular black trouser socks will work well, too, as long as they're tall enough to cover your legs up to the knees. Do avoid fishnets or tights with colored or sparkly designs on them, because your ankles will be seen as you walk, and designs like that are obviously modern. Your stockings should also be heavy enough that you can’t see your skin through them; modern "sheer" nylons are too see-through!

As for shoes, especially avoid sandals or open shoes, running shoes, anything with chunky platform soles or stiletto heels, cowgirl and Army/work boots! Shoes should be of the lace-up or pull-on granny boot type, in black or brown, with low (1 ½ inches or lower) or flat heels. Sometimes you can find black half-boots in this style that have a discreet zipper up the inside of the ankle; while the zipper was not yet invented in the Victorian era, if the zipper is narrow and not set off by shiny or brightly colored trim, it should be unobtrusive enough. If you can find black adhesive tape (in the automotive section at Wal-Mart, or Orchard Supply or Home Depot) you can use it to cover up any really shiny trim like visible snaps, studs, or sequins. Leather, vinyl, or cloth shoes or boots in this style can often be found at thrift shops and at Wal-Mart and Target, and you can get them a little larger than you need and add an insole inside for comfort. You can also use black Chinese shoes or Mary Janes, or even black Keds, if you have nothing else! They aren’t what a woman of Dickens’ time period would have worn, at all, but they are simple, and black and, with black stockings, they will help your feet “disappear” under your skirts, rather than drawing people’s attention.

If you can’t manage black or brown boots or shoes, then you can buy black knee socks at the thrift store – make sure they’re several sizes too large – cut off the heel and most of the sole (except for about an inch right under the arch of your shoe), and pull them on over your colored shoes to cover them up! They will be like “spats”, except they should cover your whole shoe, or anything that’s not very dark in color. If you like, you can sew or glue a line of black buttons up the outside of the ankle on each one, to give the illusion of wearing buttoned boots. Tuck the top edge of the sock under at about 2 inches above your ankle bone (unless your boot tops are higher) to make them look more like boots, and sew, glue or duct-tape it down on the inside of the sock. You're almost ready to go! Next will be other accessories like bonnets, gloves, and shawls.

The official Dickens Fair costume guide
Dickens Christmas Fair website
Kay Gnagey’s 19th Century Costume Research Center
Elizabeth Stewart Clark’s Sewing Academy

1 comment:

Shef said...

its really very nice thanks for sharing this with us.

womens shoes

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)