It's funny the conversations you get into. I was talking to Deborah Challinor - author of Behind the Sun and other amazing historical novels and discovered she had a bit of a thing for 'boots' which then led to all things historical as it does with Deb...I couldn't resist asking a few questions...
HOW MANY PAIRS OF BOOTS DO YOU OWN?
Er, well, ten, actually. Not counting the pair on its way in the mail as we blog. Online shopping is a terrible thing. And 17 pairs of shoes (which I think is quite reasonable), and five pairs of sneakers.
DO YOU INDULGE THIS FETISH IN YOUR WRITING?
Well, I would like to, but a lot of my books are set in the 19th century, and shoes then didn’t have quite the same status as an accessory as they do now, because they were seldom seen. Also, many of my characters come from the lower end of the socio-economic scale, so they don’t have the money to prance about in fancy footwear. And even when they do, sometimes they choose not to.
In Girl of Shadows, out later this year and the sequel to Behind the Sun, prostitute Friday Woolfe is told by her boss to smarten herself up. She does, but isn’t particularly thrilled with her new clothes...
‘Friday sat on the bed, untied the ribbons on her delicate suede pumps, inspected the damage and tossed them into a corner. It was ridiculous: they were new on today to go with her striped blue dress and were ruined already from traipsing around streets full of potholes and stones and horseshit. Why she couldn’t just wear her comfortable, black leather lace-up boots she didn’t know.’
HAVE YOU RESEARCHED NINETEENTH CENTURY FOOTWEAR FOR YOUR BOOKS?
I have. Footwear worn regularly, particularly during the early 19th century, hasn’t lasted, so there aren’t that many extant examples of everyday shoes. Why would there be? I don’t keep the crappy old runners I wear around the house once they’ve fallen apart, and people in the 19th century didn’t either. Online, however, and in books on fashion, there are quite a few images of ‘best’ shoes. Check out Pinterest and various museum collections.
Up to around 1825-ish well-heeled (excuse the pun) women generally wore pointed-toed slippers of soft leather or fabric, with a very low, or no, heel. By 1830 the square toe was in, and button and occasionally lace-up boots had became popular – to preserve modesty as wider, swinging skirts revealed more ankle. Heels remained low until around the 1860s-70s, when you started to get a bit of height. Poor and/or working class women tended to wear heavy and practical lace-up boots, or clogs. They were cheaper, lasted longer and tolerated dirty streets, mud and factory floors. Not terribly elegant, though. A bit like 19th century Crocs.
I knew you would be a mine of information Deb! I'm off to count the number of pairs of boots I have in my cupboard...I am however very proud to say I do not own any Crocs, but I do have a much loved pair of Doc Martins! Meanwhile check out Behind the Sun. I loved it and I can't wait for Girl of Shadows!
Image Victoria and Albert Museum, London
BEHIND THE SUN
(HarperCollins Publishers Australia, 2012)
Irreverent and streetwise prostitute Friday Woolfe is in London's notorious Newgate Gaol, awaiting transportation. There, she meets three other girls: intelligent and opportunistic thief Sarah Morgan, naive young Rachel Winter, and reliable and capable seamstress Harriet Clarke.
On the voyage to New South Wales their friendship becomes an unbreakable bond - but there are others on board who will change their lives forever. Friday makes an implacable enemy of Bella Jackson, a vicious woman whose power seems undiminished by her arrest and transportation, while Harriet is taken under the wing of an idealistic doctor, James Downey. Rachel catches the eye of a sinister passenger with more than honour on his mind.
When they finally arrive on the other side of the world, they are confined to the grim and overcrowded Parramatta Female Factory. But worse is to come as the threat of separation looms. In the land behind the sun, the only thing they have is each other ...
Amazon buy link: Behind-the-Sun
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