Vernet Project: Silly Shoes

One of the five pieces of my Vernet Project was creating the silly up-turned-toe elf shoes in the fashion plate. Clearly, these are not shoes that could be purchased, as they are so specific in style, so I set out to make my own!

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In the beginning, I was thankful to have another Vernet project maker’s experience making her boots before mine to work from. Jenni posted a two part tutorial showing how she made her boots as well as sharing information behind-the-scenes with project participants earlier in the process (Part 1 and Part 2). She closely referenced Every Lady Her Own Shoemaker, published in 1855 (a little late relative to the date of the project, but still useful for construction advice), for construction methods and carefully documented her process. In fact, she did a much better job at documenting the actual sewing than I did… I also read Anna’s information about making mid-19th century shoes multiple times to help get my mind acquainted with the project (again, a little later than the period of the project, but still helpful). She also has lots of great construction pictures.

I started by creating a pattern for my shoe using patterns in Every Lady Her Own Shoemaker. Given that my shoe has the unusual turned-up-toe, I necessarily needed to make adjustments to the general slipper pattern. Here is my shoe at the mockup stage. The upper pieces fit pretty well! I adjusted the width of the sole as well as the shape of the turned-up section before moving on to cut out the final pieces.

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Here are all of the final pieces cut out and ready to assemble. The soles have three layers: heavier tan leather for the outer sole, cardboard for the inner sole structure, and white linen to cover the cardboard insole. The uppers have two layers: lightweight raspberry leather for the exterior and white linen for the interior. Later in the process I also added a faux fur cuff.

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To help the shoes keep their turned-up-toe shape I soaked the leather soles in water, taped them to a lysol wipe container, and let them dry. You can see the results below. Not perfectly curved up, but still helpful. I also tried boiling leather soles to thicken them before shaping, but found that the leather shrank unevenly which created soles that wouldn’t work for this project. I did save them, though, and hopefully will get to use them for a future shoe making endeavor. I repeated the soaking and shaping for the cardboard insoles before gluing the linen to them. There’s a picture of the insoles at this stage in this past post.

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After shaping the soles it was time to construct the uppers. I did the interior and exterior separately, then basted them together around the top opening and around the bottoms. Then I sewed the bottom edges of the uppers to the soles, using the slanting stitch through the side of the sole that Jenni shows in Part 2 of her tutorial. She used all sorts of nifty leather tools as well as a wooden last during construction. I purchased the nifty leather tools but found that they didn’t work for me and a simple non-leather needle worked just fine. (I think my leather was too thin and soft for these to be needed). As for the last, I looked online for a wooden one, never found one in my size foot, and eventually decided to give it a go without one, especially since I had to do the turned-up toe. In the end, I don’t think it was a problem not to have a last.

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Once the soles were attached, I bound the front slit with matching silk ribbon. Then I cut a piece of faux fur for each shoe that went around just the top of the foot opening and could double over on itself. There are non-functional silk ribbon loops that are sewn to the front of the fur that encases the top edge of the shoe. The shoes actually close with a twill tape threaded through hand sewn eyelets on each side of the opening.

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They’re actually quite comfortable for walking around in. I have very flat feet, so don’t really need arch support to be comfortable. The only thing is that my feet did get cold during our photoshoot due to the freezing ground only separated from my feet by a few thin layers of fabric. So, for the second wearing, while caroling at Christmastime, I added a faux fur insole. Problem solved! They were toasty and even more comfortable!

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Interestingly, witzchouras are mentioned as being popular in Paris during the year 1827 by La Belle Assembleé, after a mention of other popular pelisses and mantles (well worth checking out!), and are are described as being worn with boots laced in front and with fur around the leg.

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Doesn’t that description sound oddly familiar? It reminds me so very much of the Vernet fashion plate and my silly shoes!

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HSF #24: 1917 Fur Hat (And Revised Muff)

The theme of this HSF challenge is Re-Do, in which you re-do a previous challenge for a second time or you re-do a challenge you didn’t complete the first time around.

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The muff and hat are super soft. In addition to keeping my hands in the muff, I also spent a fair amount of time hugging and patting it.

I’m using my recently completed 1917 fur hat and recently revised matching muff as my entry for this challenge. I think the hat and muff best qualify for a re-do of Challenge #20: Outerwear, which I did complete with my 1822 Walking Dress (so this would be a re-do of a challenge I already completed). So, the facts:

Fabric: About 1/4 yd of faux fur and about 1/4 yd cotton flannel.

Pattern: Created by me.

Year: 1917.

Notions: Thread, polyester batting.

How historically accurate?: 90%. Tall round hats of this sort were popular in 1917, though they were likely made of real fur rather than faux fur. The revised muff has a great shape for lots of periods, including this one, and is pretty accurate, aside from the fact that it is also faux fur. Oh, and neither hats nor muffs were insulated with poly batting… but it is so warm! And no one will know except me, and those of you reading this!

Hours to complete: Unknown. I was pretty tired while working on the hat, so I know it took longer than it should have. The muff was quick (like 2 hours) but that’s just the revision. I don’t remember how long it took to make it originally.

First worn: At a Thanksgiving event in Plymouth.

Total cost: None, since I bought the fur and the flannel specifically for the muff over two years ago I count it as a stash project.

Here’s my inspiration for the hat. I was aiming for the exaggerated shape on the right. I don’t think I quite achieved that, unfortunately. I did actually spend a lot of time patterning the hat so it would look right sitting at an angle rather than straight. I think I was so cold when I was wearing it that I pulled it down to cover more of my head and thus pulled it off of its angle. Sad! But also, the thick fur rather obscures the shape anyway. I chose not to do the sticky-up bit, partly because I ran out of time, and partly because I just didn’t know what to make it out of, since the hat was already fur. Oh well. I really like that middle hat, too…

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1915. In the collection of the NYPL.

I originally made the muff for an 1860s event a few years ago. I had a plan to use gathered silk for the two ends, but it turns out it looked cooler in my head than when I executed the plan. Also, the muff was a little longer than I liked, so I decided that for this event I would shorten the muff by taking off the silk ends and folding the fur over to cover the ends. Here’s my Pinterest board of inspiration for this project. You’ll see that there are various shapes and sizes of muffs c. 1917. Mine is somewhere in the middle in terms of size and shape.

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This is sort of what I was envisioning with the silk on the ends, but it is a little underwhelming. You can see the cotton flannel lining in the middle. It holds body heat, so it doesn’t feel cold when you put your hands in!
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This is the other side. It’s pretty twisty and sad.

But as I said, I took the silk off, folded the fur down over the ends, and sewed it directly to the flannel. (I have plans to use the silk for a Regency reticule at some point in the future… yay recycling!) You can see the results in these next few pictures. I’m quite happy with the results! The muff is about 3″ shorter and I like the look of the fur on the sides.

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See the fur on the sides? That used to be the silk part.
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This was our silly shot and it shows off the new muff end well.
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Another silly shot, just for fun. I think maybe I was trying to keep my face warm?