From the Vaults: Silk Evening Shoes

Part of a series featuring highlights of my recent research at the Library of Congress.


“Silk Ribb Evening Shoe” by William Skinner and Sons.

William Skinner and Sons was a very successful silk cloth manufacturer with roots dating back to the 1850s.   Their earliest ads in Apparel Arts often promoted their quality silk linings for robes, suit jackets and tuxedos and occasionally for lapel facings and cummerbunds.  By the mid-1930s they were ambitiously diversifying into other aspects of formal wear.  In 1936 a six-page ad touted the company’s silk bow ties, waistcoat linings, opera hats, mufflers and, most unusually, the silk faille shoes depicted above.

I imagine these had very limited appeal considering they must have cost a fortune yet would be unable to stand up to the usual scuffs and stains incurred even by formal footwear.  Then again, perhaps such decadence was the very basis of their appeal.


  1. harles

    Fascinating! I can’t help but wonder how they were constructed since silk by itself could not hold the shape of an oxford. Or perhaps it was just the trees inserted into them?

    Is my understanding correct that 18th century court shoes were usually silk, but much more colorful and probably heavily embroidered?

    1. Peter Marshall

      Good question about the construction. As for 18th century pumps, I’m afraid I don’t know much about them.

  2. Hans Servando

    I imagined that something like this existed

  3. Cajetan

    That is actually an interesting example of a manufacturer trying to develop new products.

    Do you know if there was really a viable market for this? I know that William Skinner and Sons was famous for their silk pumps for brides, but I cannot imagine that many men would buy silk shoes…

    1. Peter Marshall

      I don’t think I’ve come across any reference to silk shoes outside of these so I suspect they didn’t exactly catch on.

  4. Captain
    Mans shoe 1805

    Earlier: 1640-1660 English Slippers at the Glasgow Museums, Glasgow – From the curators’ comments: “It was fashionable for wealthy gentlemen in the seventeenth and eighteenth century to wear a form of undress, known as dishabille, at home. This often consisted of a loose gown, nightcap and slippers. The long vamps of these backless mules are made of light silk satin embroidered in coiled silver-gilt threads and decorated with small metal spangles.”

    1220, Shoes of the Holy Roman Emperor. Kunsthistorische Museum, Vienna Sicily, beginning of the 13th century, altered in Nu”rnberg between 1612 and 1619 Calf with red silk and gold edging; precious stones and pearls;


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