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  • Dark brown embossed leather shoes with latchets.
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This pair of 19th century shoes is typical of fashionable footwear from the more rural areas of Sweden. The thick leather uppers have been stamped with a decorative pattern and the soles are constructed of layered birch bark. The most unusual feature of these shoes is the placement of the heel, a reflection of 18th century fashion. Set directly under the instep, heel placement often impeded the wearer's ability to walk. A writer in 1838 commented on the peculiar gait of Swedish women who placed their toes down first, the reverse of the normal heel first gait, due to their unusual shoes.

Leather shoes with inset birch bark heels
Sweden, c. 1795-1820
BSM P83.167

Small Stories


In the 19th century, some Swedish brides would receive a gold coin from their mother and a silver coin from their father to be placed in their shoes as a means of ensuring prosperity. Some brides also walked down the aisle with their shoes untied as it was thought to ease their future childbirth pains.