Best Foot Forward: Dressing for a Special Day

These shoes were worn by Mary Evelyn Nichol (nee Griffin) to her wedding on September 18, 1929. In 1997 her daughter donated them to the BSM along with the wedding dress and other accessories worn for this very special occasion.

These cream silk satin pumps have a high heel and feature a beaded butterfly attached to the vamp as well as a cluster of faux flowers. Orange blossoms have been an element of the bridal wardrobe for quite some time but came into vogue in the West in the 1800s. It’s a tradition that has stood the test of time.

In 2002 these pumps were selected for display in the BSM exhibition The Perfect Pair which discussed wedding traditions around the world. The wax petals of the orange blossom decoration on the right shoe were all missing, one wax bud was hanging loosely from its wire stem. In comparison to the left shoe which was missing one petal and one leaf. The remaining leaf was hanging loosely and would dislodge easily when handled.

The flower petals were manufactured from Japanese tissue paper (Abaca flax) and Udashi. The Udashi was sandwiched between two layers of abaca paper and dipped in melted paraffin wax (containing a minute amount of Winsor & Newton oil paint: cadmium pale yellow and titanium white as a tint). A tail of unwaxed tissue was left along one edge. The petals were cut from the waxed paper using a card stock template, the base of the petal having an unwaxed tail. An adhesive was applied to the unwaxed paper and the petal was adhered to the base of the stamen cluster on the right shoe.

For the left shoe the bases of the extant petals were attached to the stamen base with adhesive. The partially loose petal was backed with the long fibre Japanese tissue paper and glued in place. An extension of paper was glued to the petal collar for extra security. Abaca tissue was glued to the back of the loose petal. When the adhesive had dried the excess paper was cut away, however an extension was left at the base of the petal. A second ‘patch’ of the same paper was glued to the very bottom of the front face of the petal and over the back extension support which was glued in place. The missing leaf was cut from Kin Pai Japanese paper using its mate as a template, painted with Winsor Newton acrylics and pressed with dressmaker’s muslin to achieve a similar pattern. The loose leaves and the replacement leaf were glued to the wire supports.

The exhibition told the stories of wedding traditions from around the world. There were showcases featuring bride and groom mannequins wearing special occasion clothing along with footwear from each region. Situated in the centre of the gallery was a showcase designed to look like an elaborate wedding cake. Inside these tiers were white wedding shoes, this pair being one of them. For more about The Perfect Pair, visit the BSM's new online exhibit here.

© Richard Johnson 2002  

Ada Hopkins, Conservator

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