Adornments : Kid Slippers

Kid Slippers
Kid slippers, c. 1845

Mrs. Torrey E. Wales (née Mason), a local Vermont citizen, wore these two delicate, cream-colored slippers at her wedding in February 1846. Though they appear to be undersized for a grown woman, the slippers’ diminutive appearance is intentional. Mrs. Wales’ contemporaries considered it fashionable for so-called “gentlewomen” (women of high birth, rank, and/or social status) to have tiny, dainty feet and hands. These shoes were designed to not only adorn the body, but to alter and minimize the appearance of the feet.

Like most shoes made for women at this time, these were composed of very fragile and easily damaged materials, in this case kid leather. Other materials included various types of cloth, such as satin. These fragile shoes made the wearer appear helpless, dependent, and domestic, feminine ideals in the early nineteenth century. The material of the shoe acted as a safeguard against excessive physical activity, since too much exertion would cause the shoe to come apart. Wearing these slippers, the new Mrs. Wales would have had to step very carefully during the wedding party, thereby proving herself to be exceptionally delicate—and worthy of her husband’s protection.