Conservation Blog : A Slipper Fit for Cinderella

This bejeweled gold velvet mule with extended tongue/shin ornament was designed by Roger Vivier in 1964. It was purchased at auction by the Roger Vivier Archives in Paris, France and generously loaned for the entire run of the Bata Shoe Museum’s retrospective of the designer’s career Roger Vivier: From Process to Perfection in 2012.

Side view of damaged tongue
Close up of damaged tongue showing fraying edges of velvet & satin

Unfortunately the previous owner was unable to provide the tender-loving-care required for such a complicated object. Improper storage had rendered the fabric quite fragile and the unsupported tongue, which has some weight to it, had been pinned together in several places as the multiple layers had delaminated and the internal metal structure weakened.

Back of tongue showing location of pins

Treatment here at the Bata Shoe Museum was as follows: the rusted pins were clipped with wire cutters and the shortened pieces were eased through the fabric with tweezers. The metal stays that wrapped around the perimeter of the tongue between the lining and the velvet were gently manipulated and glued into place as the original adhesive had long ago dried out.

Interfacing patch sewn together

Placement indicating future location of patch between velvet vamp and satin lining

All the fraying threads along the edges of both the velvet and the satin lining were humidified and repositioned. The velvet at the base of the tongue was extremely fragile so a reinforcement was made from two layers of stiff interfacing sewn together. This patch was impregnated with an adhesive which upon drying was inserted between the upper and the vamp lining, and then the adhesive was solvent activated. Once all the weakened components were supported, the loose ‘jewels’ were sewn in place using fine silk thread and a long, very thin beading needle.

Access for all these operations was through the space between the tongue and its lining. Once everything was secured these two components were glued together. This treatment was so successful that the tongue could support itself which it couldn’t do when it arrived at the museum. A small acrylic rod rests between the back of the tongue and the sole to reduce the strain while the shoe is on display for the exhibition.

Front view of completed treatment

Back view of completed treatment

Did you know that our next Salon Series will be about Cinderella? Join culture journalist, Nathalie Atkinson for an illustrated talk about how the screen has embraced and reinterpreted the folk tale and its fashion tropes. From silent film era stars and animation to urbane tales of social mobility and of course, Audrey Hepburn’s many makeovers. Sign up by visiting our website here.

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