A diminutive pair of pale blue silk
shoes adorned with a profusion of costly metallic braid or lace clad the feet
of Eliza Pinckney (1722-1793)
sometime in the 1760s or 1770s. (They are 6.75 inches in length with a heel a smidge over 2 inches in height.) It is certainly fair to note that
these light blue silk satin shoes are distinctive. The fact that we have the
name of the wearer of these elegant pumps, Eliza Lucas Pinckney, places them
into the category of rare and significant clothing survivals.
in London, they bear the label of the Cordwainer Thomas Hose, whose shop
was located in the heart of the Cordwainer's Ward on Lombard Street. A well-articled geometrical pattern was created by the careful
placement of metallic braid. (This is especially striking in the outline of the heel and culminates in a stylized floral motif at the vamp.) The design is intriguing – for example, the slender Louis heel
is made to appear even more slender by the placement of the braid.
an unusual treatment, and offering further evidence that the shoes were a costly
item, much of the interior was lined with two separate striped silks of a
salmon pink and white, and an olive and tan. Silk also lines the underside of
the tongue, though this detail is found more frequently in high-end shoes of
the time. It often goes unnoticed due to damage of this delicate area. The treatment
of the inside of Eliza's shoes offer an instant visual 'pop' and in this case,
the like of which I have yet to see so fully treated. It is of interest because
she (and perhaps one or two intimates, such as her husband) would be the only one to
notice this inside detailing.
Eliza was married to Charles Pinckney, lawyer, judge and member
of the House of Commons. Eliza is best known for her perseverance and success
with her father’s indigo crop, ultimately making it a prosperous crop in the
Lowcountry (South Carolina) until the war.
Of particular interest is the use and placement of the metallic
braid, which was a treatment seen several decades earlier but the heel shape
places the shoe in the 1760s-1770s range. The cordwainer Thomas Hose moved the
family business from Rose Street, Cheapside, to Lombard Street at the “sign of
the boot” in 1769-70. These are almost certainly bespoke shoes, designed for specially
for Eliza. One suspects that perhaps the pale blue silk was a nod to her indigo
crop – although that is merely speculation at this point. It is interesting to
note that Eliza spent five years in England from 1753-1758 for the education of
her children, while her husband served as a colonial
agent. Could they date from that time – when she was in her 30s and enjoying
the London social life and high profile entertaining? 
I ended a nearly five year pilgrimage to view these shoes in
person on April 21, 2015. My appreciation to Jan Hiester, the Charleston Museum Curator of Textiles, for her
generous assistance. Continued thanks to Colin Hose and Linda Pardoe for so
generously sharing information on the Hose family.
All illustrations are courtesy of the Charleston Museum.
abundance of material regarding Eliza Lucas Pinckney is available online and in
print, including readily available copies of The Letterbook of Eliza
Lucas Pinckney, 1739-1762. Ed. Elise Pinckney
Thomas Hose (b. abt. 1734 – d. December 12, 1787), apprenticed to his father,
John. In 1769, he inherited the business in his father’s will. He was in his
mid-30s. Shortly thereafter, he moves the business to Lombard Street. By c.
1770-1787, trade directories show that Thomas senior was in business with his
son Thomas junior at 33 Lombard Street, “The Sign of the Boot.” For more, see
my Portsmouth Athenaeum Journal article here: https://www.academia.edu/9408670/_Goods_to_America_The_Hose_Family_Exports_Shoes_From_London_c._1730-1797