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Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

02 November 2009

PATTENS

I’m starting work on a series of articles for my Regency Writer’s Group (RWA’s Beau Monde chapter) and I’ve been reviewing my archives and pictures for inspiration. One of the cooler items of clothing that I’ve rarely (if ever) seen featured in a book are pattens.

They were usually comprised of a wooden platform sitting atop two metal rings, with a leather sandal or mule for the shod foot to rest in (think about trying to balance on this while walking across wet cobbles!). But simple platforms and “geta-type” clogs existed, too (not surprising considering the era’s obsession with all things Asian). The whole point of the patten is to help keep the feet dry, and/or to keep the shoes clean. An important and hard to achieve goal when ladies’ shoes were barely more solid than a modern ballet slipper and the streets were a morass of dirt, mud, animal droppings, human excrement, and water (it rains a LOT in England).

So here are a series of pattens dating from the 1730s (green silk), the 1790s (little white bow) and two pair of “carriage clogs” from the 1820s.

12 Comments:

Blogger Joanna Waugh said...

Fantastic post, Kalen! At last I get to see what those little devils looked like. Thanks so much for sharing the information.

9:10 AM  
Blogger Linda Banche said...

Hey, I have a scene in my magnum opus where the hero straps pattens on the heroine's feet. Whoever said putting clothes on wasn't sexy?

9:24 AM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

Just FYI: Most of the ones I've seen are slip on, like mules; nothing for the hero to "strap".

1:37 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Cool! I've been reading about pattens since I read YA historical fiction as a kid, but these are the best pictures I've seen.

2:14 PM  
Blogger Gillian Layne said...

Kalen, did the shoemaker/cobbler come to the nobles or did they go to a "shoe shop"?

5:20 AM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

Gillian, as far as I know, the ton went to cobblers just as they went to their tailor or modiste. This is not to say that someone wealthy enough (and lazy enough) couldn’t get any tradesman of their choice to call on them while they were in Town, but in general peers went shopping just like everybody else (everyone short of Royalty, that is).

7:01 AM  
Blogger Gillian Layne said...

Great! Thanks for info, and looking forward to your articles. :)

7:28 AM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

Nice. I thought they'd be clunkier.

And as for cobblers, according to the historian Eric Hobsbawm, shoemakers in Georgian and Regency times were very often radicals. The article is called "Political Shoemakers" and the tradition extends to Nicola Sacco, of Sacco and Vanzetti. So if your hero sends in a pair of topboots for maintenance, there's an opportunity at least for some grumbling, not to speak of political subplot.

8:29 AM  
Blogger Christine Trent said...

Actually, I've always wondered what it meant when I would read about the heroine entering the house and removing her pattens. I knew it was shoe-related...but now I really know what it means! Thanks for the informative post.

10:08 AM  
Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

Kalen, those are stunning. I've never seen photographs of pattens, though I've heard them described and I'm pretty sure I've seen drawings of them on womens' feet.

Question: If a lady was attending a ball, assembly, rout, whatever, on a lousy day/evening, would she have removed her pattens in the coach before walking to the venue's door? Or was there a cloakroom where she might have left them along with her cloak and bonnet?

5:10 AM  
Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

I have nothing to bases this on, but I would assume that she'd leave her pattens with the rest of her outterwear (so either in the cloakroom or with the servants at the door). Otherwise her feet/shoes would get wet.

11:17 AM  
Anonymous Vic said...

These are among the best images of pattens I have seen. Comments were made by Jane Austen about the clacking of pattens on cobble stones. They are one of the many street noises of Old London that are now gone.

7:08 PM  

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