Venturing outdoors in the eighteenth century could be a dirty and hazardous enterprise. Well-off women visiting friends or shopping in town needed protection for their footwear against the filth of the street and the gutter, and in the event of rain or snow. Pattens were the usual solution, comprising overshoes of leather mounted onto an iron ring which raised the wearer a few inches off the ground, and these were also worn by working women. They were not always easy to walk in, as Pepys noted in his diary in 1660: "Called on my wife and took her to Mrs Pierce's, she in the way being exceedingly troubled with a pair of new pattens, and I vexed to go so slow". The coloured print below shows a lady at a ball taking off her protective pattens as she arrives (see detail).
As an alternative to pattens, clogs could be worn. These were small wooden wedges to fit under the arch of the shoe with matching straps and flat soles to prevent the heels digging into soft ground. They were the forerunner of various more modern types of footwear protection, including Dutch-style wooden clogs as worn by millworkers, or see-through rubber galoshes worn by city women in the 1950s and 1960s.
Full item descriptions:
"shoes & pattens" [1947.1056]
"shoes & pattens" [1990.174]
"shoes & pattens" [1958.163]
"boots & galoshes" [1982.474], Gaylee