A brief history of wedding footwear
No occasion is more steeped in history and tradition than the wedding. And if you’re picturing someone’s big day (or, perhaps, your own big day), the first thing that comes to mind is the dress. It’s inevitable, given that the wedding gown has become a near-universal symbol for all things nuptial. But, of course, it’s far from the only important ingredient for a successful wedding day.
They might be hidden underneath voluminous hems cut from white satin, lace, and chiffon, but let’s not forget about the shoes – an equally important consideration, and one that’s followed by its own customs and traditions, like a train trailing behind a bride.
These days, wedding footwear is fairly open to interpretation, and that goes not just for the bride, but for everyone else in attendance, too. Maybe the groom wants to keep things traditional in a pair of black oxfords, or perhaps he’s leaning towards a pair of embroidered velvet slippers. The bridesmaids are likely to be given some license to experiment, provided that takes place within a carefully-chosen colour scheme, of course. And as for the footwear choices of every other guest, well, you might see anything from a kitten heel to a towering stiletto; a suede lace-up to an elegant slip-on.
In times gone by, the dress code with regards to wedding footwear was a bit more prescriptive. In the Regency era, the ‘half-boot’ was all the rage, a low-cut boot constructed from a soft fabric such as satin, felt, or a thin leather. The half-boot was originally designed as a response to active pastimes becoming more acceptable for women to pursue. However, it wasn’t long before the style graduated to more formal settings, such as soirees and weddings. As Jane Austen wrote in her unfinished novel The Watsons, “Nothing sets off a neat ankle more than a half boot.”
Moving beyond that into the Victorian era, and the half-boot slowly transformed into something more structured, with elaborate button fastenings and intricate embellishment. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Queen Victoria played a major role in popularising this style, particularly for brides at the time. This wedding boot changed again with the onset of the Edwardian period, with laces commonly replacing buttons, and this style of wedding boot retains a certain popularity even today.
As if to reinforce the importance of a good pair of shoes, wedding traditions often revolve around footwear. An old English tradition is for the father of the bride to place a silver sixpence in the bride’s shoe before she walks down the aisle (in fact, the famous rhyme that begins ‘something old, something new,’ originally ended with ‘a silver sixpence in her shoe’). In Greek culture it’s traditional for the groom to buy the bride’s shoes – adding that little bit more jeopardy to an already nerve-wracking day. At Turkish weddings, the bridesmaids will often write their names on the soles of the bride’s shoes, and whoever’s name remains at the end of the night will be the next to marry. Then, at Indian weddings you have the joota chupai, a mischievous game that involves the bride’s friends hiding the groom’s shoes.
All of that is to say, whether you’re the one getting married, or you only made it onto the evening guest list, never overlook the significant role footwear plays at a wedding. As you might expect, we have a whole variety of designer wedding shoes, catering to every conceivable taste and dress code. Maybe you’re in the market for a traditional bridal shoe, or instead you’d like a pair of modern wedding heels. Perhaps it’s a dressed-down affair, and some wedding flats are the order of the day, or an exotic destination bash that requires some versatile wedding sandals. Whatever it is, we have it, and your ideal pair are just waiting to be discovered.