"Easy Ways Out"

Let's assume that after all this, you've decided that making Period shoes is just too big of a pain to bother with for you. What opinions are there for you? I include this section ONLY in the interests of exploring the entire concept, not because I think that any of these are particularly good ideas. On the other hand, I have resorted to one or two of them myself over the years. The following are simply meant as suggestions for those people who are absolutely convinced that "Period Footwear" is either too hard to make, too expensive to buy, or just too much trouble for them to bother with. If I seem too harsh on this topic, or in someway offend with my opinions, I apologize.

What you decide to do can depend on what effect you want to achieve, and how much effort you want to expend. The choices tend to fall into the following categories:

  • Fantasy
  • Bad Hollywood Medieval
  • Hollywood Medieval
  • Based on Period Designs
  • A Faithful or 'Slavish' Reproduction of a Period Original
  • I am not intentionally being critical of any of these choices, or rather I am being critical of them all in an attempt to equalize them regarding value (as everyone will have a different opinion on their inherent worth no matter what I say about them). Both Bad Hollywood Medieval have and Slavishly reproducing Period originals can have their place, even if that place is not in your costuming.

    It should be noted that in the categories below, some suggestions are repeated in different places. This is because there is often more than one way to do any specific thing.


    To get an idea of what I mean by this, I offer as examples The Legendary Journeys of Hercules, Princess Xena, Conan, the Destroyer, Red Sonya

    Bad Hollywood Medieval

    To get an idea of what I mean by this, I offer as examples The Vikings, The Black Prince

    Hollywood Medieval

    This is the "Medieval" of Errol Flynn's Robin Hood, El Cid, Ivanhoe, Henry V (Olivier's), Joan of Arc, The Sword and the Rose

    Based on Period Designs

    Examples include Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Name of the Rose, Henry V (Branagh's), Anne of a Thousand Days

    A Faithful or 'Slavish' Reproduction of a Period Original

    An elegant solution

    The following technique was suggested to me by a lovely lady, as was the modification. The system makes a style of shoe that is undocumentable to the Middle Ages (but looks really nice). The modification makes a style of shoe that should be perfectly authentic. The system is fairly simple.

    Version 1

    1. Make an oversized Upper.
    2. Take contact or rubber cement and slather it on the inside of the upper, around the edges. Spread it along the upper side of the upper sole leather.
    3. Let the cement dry.
    4. Carefully put the upper on the person's foot.
    5. Attach the heel to the sole, letting the cemented surfaces come into contact and bonding.
    6. Attach the point of the shoe.
    7. Carefully stretching and molding the sides around the person's foot, shape the Upper TO the foot, bonding the edges.
    8. Remove the foot.
    9. Sew up the outer seem.
    10. Attach a more durable sole, if desired.

    Version 2

    It should be possible to take this general technique, and either working with the leather, or with cloth as a mock up, make the shoe on the person's foot inside out, and then when sewn, turn it "rightside out"

    There are two small drawbacks to this system.

    1. The first is that experience has suggested to me that re-inserting a last into a shoe that was made on it, once that shoe has been turned, is nearly impossible, so you will have to make the mock up, or cut the leather, a bit larger than you would if you were not going to turn it (of course, this can vary greatly depending on the type of leather you are using for your shoe). You will also have to carefully trim the seam, and possibly place an innersole liner in the shoe.
    2. The second drawback is how to attach the upper to the lower while on the shoe, so that you can do your sewing. The problem with most contact and rubber cements is that they will tend to discolor the leather they are used on (as their oils are absorbed into the leather). Other suggestions have been staples, tacking or basting stitches, using a nail or a lacing fork punch enough holes to guide reassembly, and my personal favorite, shape the upper, pin or tack in place, then, using a scratch awl, or dull knife, mark the approximate location of the seam. Place your adhesive from that point out on the upper, and then attach normally (if you want to place a rand in the shoe, adhere it to the soul before messing with the upper).

    Making "Period" shoes "wearable"

    To be honest, I think they are already, but not everyone agrees with me.  I am not advising any of these, just mentioning that some people do these things.

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    Footwear of the Middle Ages - "Easy Ways Out", by I. Marc Carlson. Copyright 1996, 1997
    This page is given for the free exchange of information, provided the author's name is included in all future revisions, and no money change hands, other than as expressed in the Copyright Page.