Slippers or Mules?

Exciting times here at Caroline Groves. Our online boutique is up and running, with Caroline’s most frequently requested bespoke styles now available to order in standard sizes EU 36 - 41. 

We have also launched a ready-to-wear line of low-heeled mules, available for immediate delivery. Each piece is hand-made, so numbers are limited in order to remain true to the brand’s aesthetic and standards of craftsmanship. 

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As our bespoke clients already know, the research that Caroline personally puts into each and every piece of work is nothing if not thorough. Her inspiration comes from her love of art, textiles, travel, history, and her respect for the countryside of her childhood.

The development of our latest line began with a pre-Covid collaboration with Russian couturier Frol Burimskiy for Paris Couture Week. Although those plans had to be cancelled, the work continued and evolved into research around the Silk Road and the styles of slippers worn among the different empires along the route.

The term ‘slipper’ in modern parlance conjures up images of fluffy indoor footwear. However its use over the years has varied in meaning and physical representation. Usually open-backed, but sometimes with a back that covers the heel of the foot, perhaps the unifying feature of the slipper is that it is easily ‘slipped-on’.

The Swing
Fragonard, ca 1767 (public domain)

From the Far East, through India, Persia and across the continent to Europe, many versions evolved and are very much part of the cultural heritage of their wearers.

Early shoes made from layers of hemp were discovered in an archaeological excavation on the ancient Silk Road in China. 

Indian juttis - known as majori or  khussa in other parts of the subcontinent - are flat-soled, handcrafted from leather and often decorated with embroidery or beadwork, with the men’s versions featuring extended upturned toes. First worn in the Mughal court, they are still worn for weddings with simpler versions commonly seen as daily footwear. 

The babouche is a Turkish or Moroccan flat leather slipper with a soft back.

Venetian chopines of the Renaissance period are backless slippers with high platform soles, a sign of affluence, worn as overshoes or with stockings, similar to the Turkish nalin of the Ottoman empire - clog-like platforms worn in bath-houses.

Woman at her Toilet
Jan Steen, 1663 (public domain)

Heeled slippers have conveyed a certain boudoir quality through the years, although they were often worn at salons and for dancing. Known as ‘mules’ in the late 17th Century and later referred to as ‘slippers’, they were smart, backless, and worn both indoors and out, featuring square or forked toes, sometimes heavily decorated with silver or embroidery. The V&A museum has a version from that period which has been preserved and x-rayed to observe the inner construction.

Our mules, as they are called in the modern day,  are inspired by the many beautiful depictions such as those painted by Fragonard and Jan Steen. Caroline has selected the most sumptuous of materials and this writer was fortunate to have the opportunity to “test” the prototype. I assure you they far surpass expectations.

Both the Seta (Italian for ‘silk’) and the Shuba (Russian for ‘fur coat’) can also be made for bespoke clients in a colourway or decorative treatment of their choice. Those who have experienced the pleasure of commissioning an exclusive pair of shoes may wish to give the same to a loved-one. Tell us a little about the occasion and the recipient, and Caroline will personalise a special invitation for their first visit to be measured at our studio.

Seta Shuba
Shoes Have Names
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