The 300 Years of Shoes collection - research & making - 1901- The Dove

Sketch of the 1890 Shoe by The House of Embroidered Paper

I've added another shoe to the timeline of the 300 Years of Shoes collection.

This time inspired by:

i. this drawing of Doves, which I came across as part of my research into illustrations of birds by early 19th century artists.

Martinet, François Nicolas, 1731-1800 from 'Histoire des oiseaux peints dans tous leurs aspects apparents et sensibles'

ii. a collection of embroidered shoes created for New York socialite Rita de Acosta Lydig (1880-1929) by Pietro Yantorny (Italian, 1874–1936).

"Silk satin, silk velvet, cream Venetian gros-point lace, metallic sequins, glass beads. Gift to MOMA from Capezio Inc. in 1953...This collection of shoes, along with their custom-made shoe trees and trunk, originally belonged to Rita de Acosta Lydig (1880–1929), a prominent New York socialite...Lydig commissioned several hundred pairs of shoes from Pietro Yantorny, who was a gifted shoemaker with an exclusive clientele. Lydig’s extensive wardrobe included numerous garments trimmed with antique lace and her shoes were no exception".


While he eventually created her a box that her shoes might flock together in the nature of doves in a cote i imagine mine an early one, the first he proposed to her.

Making my shoe:

I started by drawing doves.

I then shaped the paper of the shoe itself over a shoe I own and wear.

I tend to start this way, by searching through my own collection of shoes for one that's close to the shape of the shoe I'm looking to make.

I then tweak the shape of the paper further later on, when the base I've made using papier mache/paper tape has dried.

Having a sole that's cut to the correct shape is important, as I then shape the paper skeleton I've created, in order to make the toe more pointed etc...

Keeping on looking at the sketch of the planned piece is vital as indeed is looking regularly back at the image(s) of original shoes that served as inspiration (in this case see: shoe from the 1890's on:

however...every piece changes in the making and flexibility is equally vital


For example, I began imagining the background would be apricot and then gold.

But in the end the impact of a dark background (as is the case of the Victorian shoe I was inspired by) contrasted against and behind the white birds proved much more effective.

The end result is something other but, I believe better, than that which I'd planned.

It's also closer and yet further away from that original Victorian shoe.

Please click the arrows to see more images

The exhibition of The Regency Wardrobe collection has been postponed due to Coronavirus as soon as the collection has been shown more images (with titles dimensions etc) of all the pieces willl be made visible on

This shoe will be displayed with a stem of paper blossom made by Gilly Burton

The label inside the shoe is inspired by a label from Hannington's department store Brighton from 1808, see:

This project is being supported by:

Arts Council England, The Textile Society and Great Art

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