Friday, August 17, 2018

The Celluloid Heels of the 1920s

Celluloid Heels tells the captivating story of the first man-made plastic - celluloid and its use in footwear. In the 1920s, wooden celluloid covered heels, decorated with rhinestones were in all the rage.  Like the artistically designed celluloid heels discussed by Nazim Mustafaev, so too the book is a work of art in its own right.

The author has thoroughly researched the topic and has such a clear concept and in-depth understanding of his subject, that the book is in perfect balance. To remove even one element—the images of the shoe labels or the advertisements for example— would mar it in its entirety. From the informative and engaging text, to the high production values of the photography, to the carefully selected period photographs and ads— the word that strikes me is harmonious. It is harmonious from the front cover to the end pages.
Of tremendous interest is Mustafaev’s recounting of the evolution of man-made plastics, and the attempts to imbue celluloid with characteristics found in nature— for instance, tortoiseshell, mother of pearl and ivory. Attempts to achieve the texture and interplay of light found in nature, emulated in these man-made heels was exceedingly hard to reproduce. When I asked the author why he selected celluloid heels for study, Mustafaev responded: “I love the celluloid heels and I thought this topic was inadequately covered in shoe literature. It took me some time to research the process and I had to go deep into early plastics history.” 

This is not only an ode to the celluloid heel but to the shoe, its technically advanced concept and to the stylish women who wore them. This is a must read and a must have.

To purchase Celluloid Heels, e-mail:

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

An 1879 Wedding Dress Designed by Madame Shepherd of Boston

All images are courtesy of the NSCDA-MA
This striking silk satin wedding dress was designed by a Boston dressmaker, Madame Shepherd. Her studio was located in the Hotel Pelham, a fashionable French flat residence.  Madame Shepherd appears in the Boston City Directories over a number of years, listed under “Dressmakers.” 

Although the wedding dress appears as a two piece ensemble of bodice and skirt, it is in fact constructed in one piece. Worn on November 5th, 1879, the balance between pleated upper bodice, the high neck trimmed with lace, and the floral patterned silk skirt, embellished with beads and faux pearls, is dynamic. The silk, the details, and the quality of the dressmaking are excellent. 

The wedding dress and the accessories shown here are from the NSCDA-MA Costume Collection, Accession Number MA-CC-1953-13A. For more, contact

The author thanks Rebecca Putnam and the members of the costume committee for their assistance.