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Pair of shoes

These beautiful yellow silk taffeta shoes, tied with green ribbons, are hardly practical footwear. The exaggerated pointed toes and thick curving three-inch heels were designed with fashion in mind, rather than function. Their stylish owner – named ‘Mary Browne’ according to a handwritten note found tucked inside one shoe – would probably have only worn them indoors, covering them with pattens if she stepped outside. 

Embroidered carnations, roses and trailing foliage cover the yellow ground in vibrant bursts of pink, green, yellow and blue. Only semi-naturalistic, the bright tones and fantastic forms are clearly influenced by imported Indian and Chinese textiles. Mary might have paired her shoes with a contrasting silk dress to further emphasize their riotous colour and exoticism. As was common until the end of the eighteenth century, these shoes were made on ‘straights’, so there is no difference in shape between the left and right sides.

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