Thursday, November 24, 2016

Snappy Victorian Button Boots by Atelier Louette-Finner

Fun, fresh and contemporary low-heeled button boots, circa late 1870s-1880s, by Belgian shoe and bootmakers, atelier Louette-Finner. The black and white check upper contrast with the black lower, giving the appearance of a spat or overshoe. It is the use of the checked textile clad heel which sets the boots apart, adding a visual flourish and illustrating why the firm excelled in design. The heel softens the more masculine style.  The boots are in the collection of the Bata Shoe Museum and on view in ‘Fashion Victims’ (through January 2017;

The shoe concern exhibited at a number of international expositions, including the 1867 Paris International. Their shoes may be found in other collections, such as the Centraal Museum.  
Again, atelier Louette-Finner adds their own design flare to two pairs of 1870s women’s shoes.

A New Hampshire Man Gives Thanks: Samuel Lane (1718-1806)

A New Hampshire Man Gives Thanks: Samuel Lane (1718-1806)

Deacon Samuel Lane (1718-1806) was a tanner and a cordwainer (or shoemaker); he was 75 when he wrote the following in his daybook. His house, barn and millpond survive in Stratham, NH. 

On Public Thanksgiving Day Morning November 21, 1793, Lane wrote:

As I was Musing on my Bed being awake as Usual before Day-light: recollecting the Many Mercies and good things I enjoy for which I ought to be thankfull this day; some of which I have Noted, viz.....

The life and health of myself and my family, and also of so many of my children, grandchildren and great grand children...

For my Bible, and many other good and useful books, Civil and Religious Priviledges, for the ordinances of the gospel; and for my minister.

For my land, house and barn and other buildings...for my wearing clothes to keep me warm...For my Cattle, Sheep & Swine & other Creatures, for my support.

For my corn, wheat, rye, grass, hay; wool, flax; syder, Apples, Pumpkins... For my clock & watch to measure my passing time by Day and by Night...

For my Lether, Lamp oyl & Candles, Husbandry Utensils, & other tools of every sort.

Excerpt: Brown, Jerald E. The Years of the Life of Samuel Lane, 1718-1806: A New Hampshire Man and His World. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2000. Donna-Belle Garvin, Editor. For purchase, see:,-1718-1806-A

Courtesy, New Hampshire Historical Society

For additional images of almanack pages, Lane's tools, family furniture and additional sources, follow link below: 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Breathtaking Bespoke Boots, c. 1890s

Oh my! I have written about these bodacious boots before (Here), but last week had the opportunity to view them in person as part of the “Fashion Victims” exhibition at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, on view through January 2017. (
Note the sculptured heel; soft velvet pile paired with the smooth, gold leather
While they are visually arresting in published photos, seeing them up close was a very different experience. The level of artisanry, the luxury of the materials and the whimsy found in the overall design, is exceptional.
As noted by the Curator, Elizabeth Semmelhack, the gold kid leather appliqué and velvet are 'erotically charged' and they resemble a stockinged leg. Even a glimpse beneath a skirt would have been tantalizing. They are most likely of Swedish or German make, from c.1890s.

One wonders if these bespoke boots were ordered by a specific client or were perhaps ‘show off’ piece meant for display at an exposition.  In any event, they are truly stunning. I hope you enjoy the photos I captured during my visit.

All photographs by Kimberly Alexander; courtesy of the Bata Shoe Museum

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Pocketbook For Benjamin Stuart, 1763

This vibrant crewel pocketbook was made for Benjamin Stuart of Boston and is dated 1763. It is held in the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society ( The pocketbook features a brightly hued pastoral view with vining flowers, bird, and goats. Several large blossoms catch the eye. The wool thread is worked on linen, and features a dazzling interior, lined with silk. The wool threads have remained vivid, as has the yellow-gold silk lining (the silk is possibly from China.)

While the owner is known, the maker is anonymous. Items such as this were often made by young women for their fathers, beloveds, or for themselves. As noted by MHS Curator, Anne Bentley, the large size of the pocketbook was fashioned to accommodate old tenor currency.

Friday, August 19, 2016

A Light-Weight Wedding Corset by the Hummingbird True Fit Co.

One of the many items on exhibit for “I Do, I Do: Seacoast Brides Say Yes” is a light-weight wedding/trousseau corset by 'Hummingbird True Fit Co.' It is of stiffened cotton with steel boning. Worn in the late 19th or early 20th century, it was painstakingly repaired by a member of the Newmarket Historical Society board.

The wedding corset in the collection most likely belonged to Martha Julia Elliott. Martha was born July 26, 1899 in Yonkers, N.Y., and died in Newmarket on October 22, 1982. Her glamorous lace wedding dress and ivory wool going away suit survive as well.
Another example of this type of light weight corset, manufactured by the same company, was sold at Augusta Auctions and extant examples are in museum collections such as the Metropolitan Museum.

With today’s interest in waist training – often associated with work out sessions at the gym --you can still purchase a similar corset.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

An Exceptional Embroidered Silk Waistcoat Worn by Lt. Gov. William Tailer, 1720s-1730s

Lieutenant Governor William Tailer’s Embroidered Silk Waistcoat (by 1730)

As part of my research fellowship at the Massachussetts Historical Society, I spent time examining two waistcoats in the collection – one owned by Andrew Oliver and the other by William Tailer. Lt. Gov. 
William Tailer's stunning embroidered waistcoat with metallic thread and spangles, c. 1720-1730, is housed in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society.  Born into the wealthy Stoughton family, he served as Lt. Gov. of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. Tailer died in 1731/32. He was the father of Rebecca Tailer (Byles) whose 1747 wedding dress is also preserved at the MHS, along with family papers, letters and copy books, adding to the rich documentation available for this merchant elite Boston-based family.

The embroidery is on a heavy white/off white silk and is complex, with naturalistic rococo floral motifs, including some lovely shading of the leaves and flowers. Most likely from England or from France, inspection reveals the garment was altered - let-out- in the sides and along the neck/shoulders to accommodate Tailer’s increasing girth. The alterations were skillfully done and would not have been visible under his coat. 

The waistcoat features actual pockets (rather than ornamental pocket flaps). The buttons are backed by gold foil and feature metallic thread over a wood core. The buttonholes are meticulously finished, also with gold thread.
The waistcoat is in fine condition and I will share more as my research progresses.

Thank you to Curator Anne Bentley for her assistance and for sharing her knowledge.