Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Purple Silk Slippers by Melnotte

Last weekend, aside from travelling to 1814 and being a milliner with Madame Sabine Bettinger, we also visited the Antiques Market in Dortmund. Among some other treasures (e.g. a genuine Berlin-Iron necklace, the first for me to see outside a museum), I run into these shoes: 

Purchased during the Antiques Market in Dortmund, June 15, 2015.
Provenience: unknown, dealer bought them as "old ballet shoes" from another dealer about a year ago.

Paris made silk slippers. Makers label inside of right shoe reads: 

No 19, 
Rue de la Paix, 
près le Boulevard 
des Capucines
Md Cordonnier
pour les Dames
à Paris

The shoes are hand-stitched, made on a single last, upper material was once purple silk, now faded brown/beige.
Lined with kid leather in the rear part, lined with linen in the front. 
The edge is bound with silk ribbon, what is filled with a small woven cotton (?) ribbon (passepoil). 

The right slipper, in a better condition than the L.

A rather high vamp, decorated with a silk bow.

The shredded ribbon reveals the filling of the passepoil

Measurements: Length of sole 22.5cm. (= ca. US size 6, UK 5, EU 36-37)
smallest part of sole 2.6cm
Larges part at heel 4.4cm
Larges part at toebox: 4.6cm
Thickness of sole is 1-2mm only

Max length R

Max Width R

Min Width R

Sole "thickness", less than 2mm

Both soles still bear the nail marks of the moment they've been nailed onto the last, and some of these marks also penetrate the insole. I think that after turning the shoe, they were nailed into the last while letting dry and taking shape. The linen of the toebox has been treated with some kind of starch or glue.

Left: Holes piercing all sole layers, middle
shows two holes only in outer sole

Again, the holes what did not pierce the insole.

Glued in insole, with label, inscription droite and holes from nailing onto the last.

The shoes have visibly been worn, the silk at the area of the small toes has been stressed, and both shoes have visible stressmarks at the inside seam of the upper material (left shoe was mended rather crudely with purple thread, less faded than the silk.)

The silk at the toebox of the left shoe split due to age and possbily bad storage, giving us a glimpse of the unfaded colour inside, and also of the gluey feel of the linen.

Both shoes have purple ribbons attached, measuring 45-47cm, and a little bow of the same purple material at the vamp. 

For comparison I photographed a pair of my satin dance slippers (very abused, last ball did them in).

Comparison Shot

Comparison Shot

Modern dance slipper - width at same height as Melnotte 
Max Width Melnotte

Smallest area modern dance shoe

Smallest area Melnotte Slipper

A quick internet search about the Maitre Cordonnier Melnotte results in quite a few surviving shoes (e.g. at the Metropolitan Museum of Art). It appears that his most successful export period were the 1820 to 1840, with new shoe labels printed yearly and opening stores in other cities, e.g. in 23 Bond Street, London.

He is also mentioned in the 1824 edition of Nouvelle Encyclopédie des Arts et 
Metiers - Art de la Chaussure. (source

The address given, Rue de la Paix is to this day one of the most famous streets in relation with Fashion, Worth opened his couture house in 1885 at 7, rue de la Paix. 
Duvelleroy (fanmaker) established it's premises in 1827 in No. 15, rue de la Paix.

The Street "Rue de la Paix was newly created in 1806, first called "Rue Napoleon", then changed to Rue de la Paix in 1814 after the Restoration. 
On the city map dating 1799 we can't see the Rue Napoleon yet, but on the second picture I indicate where the street was running through the Capucine monastery (what was therefore wrecked to make room)


By piecing this information together, we can say that the shoes can't have been made in said premises before 1814 (because it wasn't rue de la Paix yet), but not after 1852, as in that year  the Parisian Firm of Maison Marret Baugrand was established no 19 by Gustave Baugrand and Paul Marret. (Paul Marret died the next year and Baugrand continued in partnership with Marret’s wife for a decade. They were known for their designs and production of high quality. They became the official “Joaillier de l’Empereur” Eugénie in 1855. (Source:

In 1834 the Cordonnier Melnotte was situated at 22 rue de la Paix

But not after1844, as in this year the cordonnier Duffossée succeeded Melnotte in 19, rue de la Paix, as described in the Moniteur de la Mode

My guess in dating these shoes is towards the early period of the House Melnotte, as the label inside my shoes corresponds with a label of earlier shoes. Apparently Melnotte spread out from No 19 to 19 & 22, to finish in No 22. 
Shoes dated into the mid-40ies by the Met also have a more modern label, with the text: À Paris,/20 Rue de la Paix./Melnotte,/Bté. de L.L.M.M. la Reine des Français et la Reine des Belges./25 Old Bond Street,/London."

(Acc. No 2009.300.4716a, b) or the label in between, mentioning London, but not yet the Qeen of Belgium: 

By the way: Melnotte still figures at

I finish this blogpost with a request: If anyone has more information to the founding of the Cordonnier Melnotte, and more to his history, please give a sign :-) 


  1. Spannend! Danke für die exquisite Dokumentation!

  2. I don't exactly know what or why, but something about these says "1830s" to me…
    Check these out, I think the shape is much like your purple ones. And it also says that they're lined in linen at the front and in kid at the back, like yours.

    1. They can be anything from late teens to mid 30ies, as after that date Melnotte would use the label as four issuer to the Belgian Queen (Belgium became a monarchy in 1831)

      What I adore about these shoes is the fact that they are seemingly delicate, yet sturdy enough to have been worn more than once. And that someone loved them enough to keep them.
      If only they could talk!

  3. Terrific find! Thanks for all the detailed information :)

  4. Ich bin immer noch vollkommen erstaunt über Dein tolles Fundstück! Was für ein unvergesslicher Tag! Nachdem ich Deinen tollen, detaillierten Bericht gelesen und noch ein paar weitere Stücke mit besagtem Label im Netz entdeckt habe, bin ich ebenfalls überzeugt, dass das zierliche Paar aus der frühen Zeit Melnottes stammt.
    Ein Erinnerungsstück, das so viele offene Fragen im Bezug auf Konstruktion beantwortet hat!
    Danke für's Teilen und die ausführliche Recherche!