By Patricia Edmondson, Museum Advisory Council Curator of Costumes & Textiles
For many, the holidays are a time to feel warm and fuzzy. We celebrate, spend time with loved ones, and in Northeast Ohio try to find ways to stay literally warm on snowy, blustery evenings. The WRHS collection contains several pairs of slippers that would help do just that.
Needlepoint Slippers, mid-late 19th century
Gift of the University Circle Development Foundation 65.162.2
During the 19th century, young women often learned needlecraft as part of their education, and many women continued to practice the art for pleasure and out of necessity. Handmade gifts are one way to show love, and this pair of needlepoint slippers from the second half of the 19th century would have kept Charles Evarts’ (1847-1911) toes warm through the winter. Evarts worked in the insurance business during Cleveland’s early days. Slippers like these would have been made by purchasing the soles and assembling at home, or by taking the completed needlework to a local shoemaker for construction. The gift giver would use patterns to create the reindeer design, done here on a cheerful red background. Women’s magazines like Godey’s offered patterns for sewing projects including slippers.
Scuffie Slipper, 1890s
H.K. Devereaux Estate, 52.256
Another option for cozy toes were fur slippers, in this case rabbit fur. Bedroom slippers without backs are called scuffs, or scuffies, for little ones. As children in the 1890s, Julian and Millie Devereux wore these slippers around the house. The Devereux family lived on Cleveland’s “millionaires’ row,” Euclid Avenue, and could afford luxuries like these during the snowy months.
Child’s Slippers, ca. 1983
This writer has her own fond memories of shuffling around the house in various pairs of slippers, and following the Mad for Plaid costume exhibition, donated a pair from the 1980s. Jack Edmonson wore these around Christmastime, and then his younger sister Patty, now WRHS costume curator, inherited them for her own use. These slippers represent the type worn by an average American child in the 20th century, rather than the privileged few. Whether you’re making or buying a cozy gift this winter, slippers are like a warm hug from a loved one, helping make the Ohio snow more bearable.