"Becoming Victoria"

I am honoured and excited to have been invited by the Llandrindod Wells Victorian Festival committee to appear as a young Queen Victoria at this year's festival from 22nd-28th August 2016. In preparation for this role I will be designing and making the costumes for the young queen over the coming months. These will be authentic reproductions of the fashions of the early years of Victoria's reign and will include a range of 1840s women's garments from corsets and petticoats to day dresses, ball gowns and bonnets. This blog will document and share my progress as I research, design and stitch each element to reveal the secrets of "Becoming Victoria".

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

What Cinderella left behind

35 days to go...

In the interests of retaining a modicum of sanity I decided to take a few hours off from the dress construction. With time ticking though, I didn't want to abandon the project completely so I made a start on my dance slippers. A few hours relaxing embroidery and I am ready again to tackle the skirts on the silk dress.

During the 1840s, the most common form of women's footwear for dancing and evening wear was a silk or leather slipper. These little shoes are very similar to what we would identify today as a ballet pump.

Shoes worn by Queen Victoria for her wedding - Northampton Museum
Shoes at this period had no right and left foot but were instead made straight. The toe was often stiffened and tended to be much shallower than a modern shoe with a square toe.

Shoes were decorated with ribbons, rosettes and pompoms as well as with intricate embroidery. Women would often embroider shoes as gifts for friends and relatives. However, a dance slipper did not always last a long time. According to some accounts, the fine leather soles could be so thin that a particularly enthusiastic dancer could wear out her shoes by the end of one ball!

Ladies Mid-Nineteenth Century Embroidered Shoe (found here - a brilliant source for a whole range of Victorian footwear styles)
To create my dance shoes I started with an ordinary pair of white leather ballet shoes bought from a dancewear shop. I have worn these previously and they are, unsurprisingly, very easy to dance in! For a more authentic toe shape, dancers' demi-pointe shoes are better as they have a square toe and are stiffened with glue. However, the only pair I have are peach-coloured and leather pumps are more comfortable for dancing.

The shoes - BEFORE
My embroidery design was inspired by these Nineteenth Cenury baby shoes.

To decorate my shoes I used three shades of cotton embroidery floss, tiny green glass seed beads and gold-tone metal sequins which are specifically made to resemble the types of sequin used in historical dress. These are tiny metal discs with a hole pierced in the centre. The edge of the shoe is finished with a gathered strip of fabric to match the ball gown and long ribbons cross over the foot and tie around the ankle.

And ...AFTER...

Other foot to follow very soon!

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