By Dakota Elliott, Intern
I’ve been spending a lot of time working with boots here at the historical society. After having surveyed at least a dozen pairs, I’ve decided to share some of what I have learned over the past month or so. I’ve been researching and surveying boots ranging from walking boots to evening boots, to comfort boots and even rubber boots. The boots I have surveyed have been in a variety of different colors, materials, sizes, and age. For this post, however, I will be focusing on carriage boots because I found them to be some of the most interesting and I like their style.
I think one of the reasons I like the carriage boots is because I can relate to them. Carriage boots are like an overshoe, except they are an overboot. (That term isn’t actually real, but you get what I’m saying). The purpose of a carriage boot was to cover a woman’s shoe against the snow and provide comfort for her during the winter months. And as the name implies, the boots were sometimes worn during carriage rides to protect shoes from getting in and out of the carriage. After just surviving through yet another bitterly cold and snowy Wisconsin winter, I can see why carriage boots were so popular. I wouldn’t mind having a pair to put over my Chuck Taylors after a fresh snowfall on my way to class.
Anyway, back to the boot! Carriage boots peaked in popularity between 1860 all the way up to the early 20th century. The boots usually had a velvet exterior and were lined with a cozy quilted silk material for added comfort and warmth. I have surveyed a pair with a white quilted interior and a different pair with a pale purple quilted silk, so the color and style does vary slightly. We even have a pair with a gray velvet wool interior. Typically, carriage boots had a fur trim, possible rabbit fur, and were tied together with satin ribbon. One down side to the boot, however, is the sole was not made of rubber until the 20th century, thus, not providing ample comfort in wet conditions. The carriage boots I have surveyed here all have a very thin leather sole which is odd, considering their purpose. Although, some women did use carriage boots as regular everyday boots. All in all, carriage boots were a winter wear staple in North America and were worn for many years. And with their sophisticated looking style, they make for one fancy winter boot.