The 17th Century

As Europe gained power and wealth, the elite distanced themselves from the masses through conspicuous refinement and extravagant ornamentation. A noble's status was visible in everything he or she did and wore. Artifice ruled the life of the elite. Flowery speech and mannered gestures characterized courtly accomplishment.

Women’s dress consisted of a bodice, a petticoat and a gown. Costly lace collars were popular and the bodice was sometimes extravagantly décolleté. High-heeled footwear made of expensive silks expressed the idle lifestyles and accumulated wealth of the 'well-heeled'.

For conservation reasons, and in order to show more variety over time, only a selection of footwear from the permanent collection is displayed in our exhibitions at any one time. This means there's always something new to see.

image of 17th century shoes