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“Queen Victoria's Wedding Shoes”

By Margaret Milde

In George Du Maurier’s Trilby, it is the heroine’s feet that embody her innocent charm. Although she is not typically beautiful, her feet effortlessly enchant Little Billee, the Laird, and Taffy. However, Du Maurier writes that the foot is typically “hidden away in disgrace, a thing to be thrust out of sight and forgotten. It can sometimes be very ugly indeed— the ugliest thing there is, even in the fairest and highest and most gifted of her sex; and then it is of an ugliness to chill and kill romance, and scatter love’s young dream, and almost break the heart” (18). Victorian women took great pride in delicate femininity, and ugly feet could destroy a facade that had been carefully constructed through tight lacing and crinolines. While every-day fashions encouraged femininity, Queen Victoria’s marriage in 1840 caused a cultural shift in wedding attire, further enhancing social ideals about womanhood.  Prior to Victoria’s marriage, brides typically did not wear all white, as it was not a practical shade. The material could dirty, and the dress could not be worn again. However, at her own wedding the Queen was adorned with white material and lace; she was dripping in feminine innocence and beauty, all the way down to her toes.  I chose to recreate Queen Victoria’s wedding shoes to illustrate the importance of fashion and gender during her reign.  In contrast, Trilby anticipates the New Woman who attempts to leave the repressive, yet beautiful, image of the Victorian woman behind. Rather than disguise her feet with delicate, ballet-like shoes, Trilby allows her feet to breathe in men’s slippers, and does not manipulate her body in order to meet unnatural and superficial gender expectations. Trilby transcends the gender constraints of the nineteenth century, rejecting the femininity embodied by Queen Victoria’s wedding shoes.