What is a patten? (Or a bit of the old to take you into the new year)

If we travel through time moving backwards from today, we have to begin with golashes to end with pattens.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, golashes are:

waterproof shoes, usually made of rubber, which you wear over your ordinary shoes to prevent them from getting wet.

Perhaps you’ve seen these in a thrift store, vintage store, or in a costume shop shoe storage near you?

A patten is a predecessor to golashes, created during the Middle Ages to circumvent the lack of sidewalks, automobiles, and rubber. Walking about town not only required additional support beneath for comfort, but additional coverage because streets might have … shall we say… “unmentionable deposits” laying about. Pattens are thought by many as something that went out of vogue in the 1700s, but in truth they persisted into the 1800s. Here is an example of an 1825 to 1840 version, during a time where women’s shoes were flat and very thinly soled, giving woman like Elizabeth Bennett, Helen Graham, Jo March, and Jane Eyre’s ability to stride through their lives using a little bit of fashionable support to get there.

This pair, in red leather, is a part of the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

From the Met’s commentary:

By the 1820s, ankle boots were becoming the favored daytime footwear for ladies in both the United States and Europe, especially for outdoor wear. Like the shoes of the time, however, fashionable boots were often constructed of thin and flimsy materials, which made walking on cobbled or unpaved roads torturous. As a minor concession to utility, this pair of thin-soled boots is paired with a matching set of pattens which provide a heavier sole for walking. Pattens were basically utilitarian, hence it is somewhat unusual for them to survive in good condition, and even rarer to find a pair matching the boots with which they were worn.


I hope that 2019 finds you striding through with confidence, strength, resolve and curiosity… and taking a little help from fashion when you need it.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. I didn’t know about Pattens until now. Thank you for sharing. I’m fascinated by all things vintage – such challenging times and such creative ways to overcome their problems.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Like minds, et al. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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