I love hand decorated and painted shoes. And I love ethnic costumes. And fantasy ensembles. I grew up with a constantly evolving and expanding dress up trunk. That trunk eventually became a costume room. My mother and I went thrifting almost every Saturday and came home with many treasures which she would alter or remake in my smaller size for me to wear and play with. I could honestly dress like a princess every day! And I did. When I was at home I could wear whatever I wanted and it was usually something absolutely fantastical.
We had a big old house. There was an extra room – formerly a nursery or playroom and it eventually became the sewing and costume room where all the dress ups were kept. We had a sewing machine set up in there and we rigged up a three way mirror at one end of the room. We had a little wooden platform with three steps up, then a flat surface at the top with about a 2×3 foot rectangular “floor.” I would climb up there, stand on the platform section in front of the mirror, and my mother would help me into some fantastical frothy old ball gown or prom dress we had found. This was a typical scenario. I was about 5 yrs old and the ornate tulle dress was made for an adult woman. But no matter! My mother was an expert seamstress. She would cut the dresses way down and alter them to fit me.
Thus, she could indulge her hobby for sewing fantastical costumes – fairly tale princess gowns – and I could dress up to my hearts content. She also restored and remade dresses for herself when we found attractive vintage pieces that she liked. That is how my interest in all things vintage and beautiful clothes began and eventually evolved to the point it is today!
When I found these beautiful pink cherry blossom wooden bottomed shoes in a grungy second hand store I instantly thought these would be perfect additions to the child’s costume collection. They are beautiful little works of art! I have no idea what they were originally made for or to go with or where. I am hoping someone who sees them here can help me to identify them. If you read this and know anything about these, would you please let me know? They have no markings or sizing of any kind on them.
I do carry on my family tradition of creating and maintaining a child’s costume trunk and stash. I make costumes for it too. Most recently a pair of boys pirate pants, by special request as a birthday present. And a little girl’s version of a very elegant black raw silk and tulle Audrey Hepburn Breakfast at Tiffany’s long party dress for a 4 year old to wear for her birthday party with black silk party shoes, a crystal Eissenberg Ice Brooch at the waist, an aurora borealis necklace and a rhinestone tiara!
Working on my child’s costume trunk is really fun and a constant work in progress. I enjoy keeping is stocked with all manner of fancy dress up and play outfits, finding ethnic costumes in small sizes, tiny beaded purses, small sized Asian style pajamas and “smoking jackets” and, of course, the outrageous party dresses which I transform into Jean-Antoine Watteau inspired miniature ball gowns.
I discovered old bridesmaid dresses in raw silk or silk dupioni are common finds at thrift stores and run about $9.99 in my town. They are normally white or cream real silk and the skits contain several yards of silk fabric! Yes! Expensive silk fabric. I carefully remove the skirts by picking out the seams with a seam ripper. Sine the dresses are commonly long (and really ugly designs!) this often yields 3 to 4 yards of nice silk! Silk that would cost at least $20 per yard at a fabric store new. The fact that is is white or off whit is a plus because I can easily dye it. The dresses sometimes have borders of elegant lace or over skirts of lace or applique. Sometimes large bows or sashes. Sometimes flowers made of silk and used as trimming.This is a great source of material for creating new and fantastic elegant princess gowns. In this case, gowns worthy of Charles James, Valentina or Norman Norell. It is good practice for me, the designer – to see what I can come up with working with inexpensive materials in small sizes. These are my training dresses as a designer.
I have done a dove blue grey one, a subtle gold brown one, a black one, and a soft yellow gold one. and the recent black one. I aim for antique looking colors and styles from Watteau paintings. I will photograph some of them soon when I can get the model who is now 4 years old to cooperate! Fortunately she loves this kind of play!
I have recently been collecting old style straw children’s large straw hats to add to my Watteau inspired vision of child’s dressing. And very small sizes ~ like old fashioned tiny ladies size 4 ~ of vintage high heels and party shoes and boots and other types of old fashioned shoes.
I am planning ahead so that my in house model, will be able to wear them when she is about 6 to 8 years old! You have to train little girls from an early age to love vintage clothes and elegant jewelry, hats and shoes. And to walk in high heels, of course! That is very important! And it is a skill that should be passed down from generation to generation. That is how I learned! Playing dress up in my mother’s and aunt’s hats and jewelry and high heels and being allowed and encouraged to do so. They played with me and had a wonderful time too! Our house was a constant fashion show. And it was a great education! Women need to pass these skills down to each other, and it is a privilege to be able to both give and receive in this respect!
Just one last thought! Don’t these shoes look like lovely little liquor flavored Petits Fours? And don’t they make you hungry for some of those?
Photographs by Fredric Lehrman.
Shoes from The Lady Violette Shoe Collection.