How the mule became a mule. A very feminine and relevant model of women's shoes today appeared in ancient Rome. A pair of shoes. Russia, Torzhok. 1780s. Morocco, velvet, leather, ribbons, gold embroidery.
02.10.2023 4640

How the mule became a mule. A very feminine and relevant model of women's shoes today appeared in ancient Rome.

We continue the joint educational and educational project of Shoes Report magazine and the State Historical Museum (GIM), dedicated to the history of shoes and shoe craft.

Women's mule shoes are fashionable footwear for rich city women for going out. The pointed-toe shoe was cut equally for the left and right feet, had a high heel and a durable sole covered in leather. Where did the fashion for mule shoes come to Russia?

The modern name (as well as the style of the shoes) was borrowed from the French.

Women's shoes (pair of mules). Russia, Tver province. 1780s Velvet, silver threads, cotton braid, suede, wooden heel, leather, kid, embroidery attached. Women's shoes (pair of mules). Russia, Tver province. 1780s Velvet, silver threads, cotton braid, suede, wooden heel, leather, kid, embroidery attached.

But similar shoes with a closed toe without a heel were known back in Ancient Rome: shoes were made for noble men from expensive red or purple leather. When visiting, the patricians took off their shoes and showed everyone their beautiful and completely impractical shoes, which became associated with their owners. Lovers of open shoes were fond of philosophy and had long conversations. First, the fashionistas themselves, and then their shoes, began to be called mulleus, which translated from Latin means “thinker.”

Women's shoes (pair of mules). Russia. 1770-1780s Corduroy, gold thread, beat, gimp, sequins, foil, silk ribbons, satin ribbons, wooden heel, leather, kid, iron heel, embroidery, applique. Women's shoes (pair of mules). Russia. 1770-1780s Corduroy, gold thread, beat, gimp, sequins, foil, silk ribbons, satin ribbons, wooden heel, leather, kid, iron heel, embroidery, applique.

In the Middle Ages, Europeans made pointed mules from leather and fabric, and were worn by both women and men. In France, shoes were especially popular. Local aristocratic women decorated their mules with glittering embroidery, upturned toes, pom-poms and down. By the XNUMXth century, the country had become a trendsetter, and the French version of mules began to spread in Europe.

Shoe. Russia. XVIII century. Silk with gold threads, gold threads, gimp, sequins, foil, leather, embroidery attached according to the card. Shoe. Russia. XVIII century. Silk with gold threads, gold threads, gimp, sequins, foil, leather, embroidery attached according to the card.

European shoe fashion entered Russia at the beginning of the XNUMXth century. It was then that new items appeared in large cities - mule shoes without a backdrop. An unusual item was found during excavations of the necropolis of the Znamensky Monastery in Moscow, in Zaryadye: a leather shoe with a top made of brocade and damask (colored silk, patterned fabric from China) from the beginning of the XNUMXth century. The shoe has a characteristic French heel: it is covered in leather with a wide top under the heel, a narrow “waist” in the middle and a widened base. This fact, as well as the absence of a heel, along with the decoration of the toe, allows experts to identify this item as a mule-style shoe.

Shoe. Russia, from the necropolis of the Znamensky Monastery. XVIII century. Brocade, damask, leather. Shoe. Russia, from the necropolis of the Znamensky Monastery. XVIII century. Brocade, damask, leather.

The archaeological find indirectly confirms the spread of fashionable shoes among Muscovites during that period.

The Tver province was in Russia in the XNUMXth-XNUMXth centuries. the center of shoe production, as good roads connected it with Moscow and St. Petersburg. In Novotorzhsky district there were many shoemakers and cobblers who perfectly mastered the secrets of producing fashionable and durable shoes. In the XNUMXth century, Torzhok embroidery decorated the clothes and shoes of townspeople.

It was not easy for ladies to wear mules with a long skirt - the foot could accidentally jump out of the shoe. Therefore, they walked in small steps, from which the gait acquired smoothness and expressiveness, and the owner of the shoes acquired special grace.

The fashion for mules in Russia lasted until the middle of the XNUMXth century, and subsequently returned periodically. Today, mules are popular again, they are made from different materials and come in very fancy shapes.

Materials (text and photos) provided by the State Historical Museum.

We continue the joint educational and educational project of Shoes Report magazine and the State Historical Museum (GIM), dedicated to the history of shoes and shoe craft. Women's shoes...
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