The 18th Century
18th-century fashion was strongly influenced by the French court. During the second part of the century the rigidity, dignity and seriousness of the women's dresses gave way to more flowing lines, decorated with bows and ruffles. Skirts were distended sideways by means of an under-structure called a 'panier' (basket).
Shaped high heels were worn by men and women of the upper classes. Materials for shoes and dresses were rich and splendid and included brocades, embroidered silks and painted leathers. Large showy buckles had become a significant feature of the shoes.
After the French Revolution in 1792, shoe styles changed dramatically. Heels shrank and even disappeared, in order to suggest that everyone was born on the same level. Expensive silks were largely replaced by more affordable and better-wearing leathers.
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.