I have to say that I really enjoyed researching this particular post. It’s amusing to see how Victorian women went from “Look I am so dainty and so modest to worship my boots.”
To understand the Victorian shoe issue you have to go back to the 1830 when Queen Adelaide (the consort of the King of Britain) introduced the Adelaide boot. Fast forward to 1850 when the cage crinoline was at it’s width of power.
The problem most ladies found with this large frame (besides the fact that they were serious fire hazards and more than one unlucky lady met her death by fire wearing them) was that the skirts would sway with each step and even worse the pesky wind would lift the skirts up. The ankle was visible! Can you imagine the horror /end sarcasm/. According to one blog this had “Men swooning with pleasure.”
Doom and despair took over the Victorian society. Ankles visible? The horror!!! Depression took hold of women, “Oh the anguish! The torture!” they cried!
Darkness crept back into the forests of the world. Rumors grew of a shadow in the east, whispers of a nameless fear, and the ring of power perceived… *coughs* You get the point.
Until they remembered the Adelaide boot! Now women were able to embrace brilliantly coloured footwear knowing their modesty would be protected. Their sense of decorum protected ladies could once again brave the elements without worrying about ankles.
As time went on the boots went higher up the calves which mean more buttons and more detail until suddenly the boots are literally buttoned thigh high.
The first pair of Adelaide boots are from c.1865-75
The second pair of my favorite due to the curves. These Boots are 1895-1915 and from the V&A.
The third pair are from the turn of the century made by Maniatis Bottier of Paris ca. 1900-1920 and they are straight from the Met.
I found it surprising that red undergarments were so popular since Victorian fashion was so modest! I’m not saying all Victorians were prudes, (we have black and white photos that prove they most certainly were not prudish in the bedroom.) But the society they lived in had many rules on etiquette and the dress code was often strict (refer to the red boot post on ankle boots and Victorian modesty). You can understand my surprise because the colour red is so sensual and erotic.
I forget the source because this was just a note attached to my file on Victorian undergarments: “Petticoats and drawers of red flannel were worn during the beginning of the era, with red stockings to match.”
All of these steel birdcages are courtesy of the V&A.
Edit: Much thanks to genderific for this information: In the nineteenth century, it was thought that red wool was the warmest kind of wool, because it was so bright and vibrant. That’s also why union suits and long johns were traditionally red flannel.