1890s Ivory Kid Bridal Pumps with Satin Medallion – “Grandma Widman’s Wedding Shoes”

I saw these on eBay with this as the description:

1890s-grandma-widmans-wedding-shoes-ladies-ivory-kid-bridal-shoes-with-french-heel-and-satin-medallion3Wedding shoes of Anna Bush Widman 1868 – 1964. A wonderful grandma who if she were here today she would say, “June, sell them or send them to a museum..”

Well, that was enough for me to want to know more! So I wrote to the seller:

Q: Yum! More photos! Especially of the bottoms of the soles. And more about Grandma Widman. At least what year did she get married? These are clearly really old – that french heel is totally pre-1900. Thanks for listing these. Mar-29-14

And the seller wrote back:

A: I am sending more pictures.. Grandma Widman came to America as a 6 month old baby from Germany- maiden name Bush. I don’t know when she was married but my mother was born in 1896. She was widowed at 49 yrs. and supported herself and two girls by cleaning houses for other women. (no S. S.) She lived to be 96 and I loved her dearly. Now I am a grandmother… where did the time go?

A little detective work:

If Grandma Widman was born in 1868.

She would have been 16-26 (marry in’ age) in 1884-1894.

Which would put her wedding, most likely, during one of those years. Probably before 1896 when her daughter was born.

It’s so much fun to find a shoe with a story!

Grandma Widman: You made it to the internet!! You are now immortal : )

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Images from an eBay auction.

1891 Ad for Allcock’s Corn Shields with Illustration of a Scene in A Shoe Store

This ad is significant in several ways. First, it was a little scandalous, even towards the end of the Victorian era, to show a lady’s foot, much less her ankle. She’s clearly wearing a floor-length gown. Those boots are not made for gawkin’…

And note the conversation:

“Number 3’s Miss?”

“Oh, no I must wear 4s, my corns are so painful”

“Excuse me, not if you use Allcock’s Corn Shields”

Number THREE’S?!? Yes, before growth hormone found its way into the meat supply people were Lilliputian compared to today’s standards.

So the poor thing had to wear unsightly gargantuan 4s.

When you study footwear fashion through the decades you’ll see that 1879 was the last time the little lady in the picture had any chance of wearing anything remotely rounded on her feet! And the worst was yet to come as the 1890s ushered in the bicycle boot craze. Catalogs from the era show that shoes got pointier and practically needle-like as the Victorian era breathed its last gasp.

But better days were on the horizon. By 1899 one sees the rounded toe coming back into fashion, followed immediately by the insanely roomy and bulbous toe so common in Edwardian footwear.

In my opinion the extreme Edwardian departure, from outrageously pointy modes of the late 19th century to shoes that looked like potatoes (not kidding) in the early 20th is the first time in history where, practically overnight, one could march in to the dry goods store and say “No way – that looks like my mother’s shoes – give me a pair of those!”. Flappers took this to the extreme with their bound chests, rolled down stockings and bobbed hairstyles, but the Edwardian jump from Victorian styles that “held court” for so many decades surely paved the way.


And holy cow – check out that hat!

Image from an eBay auction.