In a previous post, I discussed how ladies slippers and boots were so delicately made that they could not withstand much wear and tear. In fact, a lady would not venture to walk outside the house in rainy weather and would be confined inside, whether she was in the city or country. Jane Austen described a rainy day in Mansfield Park:
… to poor Miss Crawford, who had just been contemplating the dismal rain in a very desponding state of mind, sighing over the ruin of all her plan of exercise for that morning, and of every chance of seeing a single creature beyond themselves for the next twenty-four hours; the sound of a little bustle at the front door, and the sight of Miss Price dripping with wet in the vestibule, was delightful. The value of an event on a wet day in the country, was most forcibly brought before her.”
In the country a lady would not soil her delicate kid slippers on grass or muddy lanes, but would walk along gravel paths in the shrubbery, as shown in the Heideloff image above. Elizabeth Bennet, who walked the three miles to Netherfield Park, muddying her petticoats in the process, would have worn sturdier shoes, such as those worn by the women in the watercolor below.
Female fashionable attire in the eighteenth century was very ill fitted for country life, which is so largely spent out of doors. Indeed, it was not fitted for out door wear at all. No fashionable woman was properly shod in the first place, for the coloured shoes, which, as has been stated, all ladies wore, were not adapted for vigorous exercise, or damp weather, with their high heels and very open tops. Those were the kind of shoes worn for walking in London. Country life in shoes of that sort would mean endless expense. The wonder is that town bred women did not insist upon the shoemakers providing something more fitted for the dirty, uneven pathways. But, then, walking was not a daily exercise as it is now. Foot gear has undergone much reformation in the present century, in spite of the persistence of high heels…”
“… A notable itinerant trader of the middle of the eighteenth century, known to all Londoners, was William Conway of Bethnal Green, who made a living by selling and exchanging metal spoons. As he walked twenty five miles a day, Sundays excepted, his shoes were the most important articles of his attire, and these he made out of the uppers of old boots. A pair of shoes lasted him six weeks. He was an odd figure, with his long spindle legs encased in tight knee breeches, short coat, high hat, and bag slung over his shoulder.” – A history of English dress from the Saxon period to the present day, Volume 1, By Georgiana Hill , 1893, p 181