Help me figure out what my great-grandmother is wearing on her feet in this picture from the 20's.
December 6, 2009 2:26 PM   Subscribe

One of my aunts recently found this picture of my great-grandmother (in the middle) and her two sisters, taken sometime in the mid to late twenties. Help me figure out what my great-grandmother is wearing on her feet.

It looks like she's wearing some kind of strange cast on both feet....She did not have any foot problems that we are aware of (believe me, she would have told us) and sadly there is no one alive who we could ask. Was this some kind of bizarre footwear fad of the twenties?
posted by cottonswab to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (21 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
It looks like she is wearing black shoes with white rectangular decorations. The black is getting lost in the background, so the rectangles make it look like the opening of a cast.
posted by procrastination at 2:31 PM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think they are just dark shoes with big rectangular buckles, and shiny stockings. Look at how the shoes of the other ladies are getting swallowed, too; they're just recognizable as shoes because of straps and other things.
posted by peachfuzz at 2:35 PM on December 6, 2009


Are you talking about the shiny quality of her legs? It looks to me like heavy tights, something like support hose.
posted by Sublimity at 2:35 PM on December 6, 2009


What procrastination said. Her legs look shiny, so she's probably wearing silk stockings. If she were in a cast she wouldn't have hose on.

Wasn't Bakelite really popular around that time? Maybe they're some kind of shoe clips.
posted by TooFewShoes at 2:42 PM on December 6, 2009


There is definitely an optical illusion going on here. Once you are able to imagine the ends of her shoes extending beyond the black rectangles, the image should make more sense (as described above).
posted by deadcrow at 2:45 PM on December 6, 2009


Looks like shoes/stockings to me... nothing weird.
posted by maniactown at 2:48 PM on December 6, 2009


She's wearing a normal pair of dress shoes with a decorative rectanglular buckle at the toe. Probably something similar to this shoe (but in black).
posted by amyms at 2:52 PM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I seriously looked for like two minutes and I can see it now! The tips of her shoes are pointy and blend it with the ground beyond the rectangular buckles. Look really closely and you can see the lines of the edges.
posted by leesh at 2:58 PM on December 6, 2009


Wow, yeah, you have to stare, but then the illusion "flips" and you can see the shoes that amyms and leesh describe. One further relevant fact: her feet seem to be pretty big. I.e. there is more exposed stocking-encased-top-of-foot than you might expect.
posted by kestrel251 at 3:04 PM on December 6, 2009


If it helps, the toe of her right foot is almost touching her sister's left foot.

The lack of contrast could be down to the use of orthochromatic film - which has almost no red sensitivity - that was just fading out of popular use in the 1920s.
posted by scruss at 3:19 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I had a play in photoshop. This is what I think they could be.
posted by b33j at 3:53 PM on December 6, 2009


Although, a second look seems to suggest that the poor lady was wearing rectangular pipes, bent at the ankle.
posted by b33j at 4:04 PM on December 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


Unflattering black or dark shoes with white-trimmed buckles and shiny stockings that reflected ambient light in an unflattering way. Picture-taking is hard.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:12 PM on December 6, 2009


Also, the difference between the shiny stockings that look so odd and those of the lady in white is probably because the matte stockings on the lady to your great gram's right were probably cotton lisle, and those look more like what we're used to seeing these days.
posted by peagood at 4:15 PM on December 6, 2009


Although, a second look seems to suggest that the poor lady was wearing rectangular pipes, bent at the ankle.

I have to admit that's how I first saw her feet. Took me a long time and the firt few suggestions to look again and see the black shoes with the buckles. Nice job.
posted by CathyG at 4:28 PM on December 6, 2009


She looks to be wearing a T Bar or Mary Jane with buckles which were really common in the 20's.
posted by squeak at 4:45 PM on December 6, 2009


The stockings are shiny because they are silk.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:55 PM on December 6, 2009


Are you certain your great-grandmother didn't have prosthetics? Because beej's suggestion jives with what I'm seeing.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:11 PM on December 6, 2009


allow me to join the chorus...those are rectangular buckles on her shoes and the actual toe of her shoes are somewhat obscured.
posted by naplesyellow at 5:15 PM on December 6, 2009


Silk hose (real silk has a sheen unmatched by anything else); low cut, medium to high heeled black shoes with big buckles. (We have pictures of my grandmother & cousins wearing similar shoes.) If you look, the lady on the left of the picture has matte hose (probably cotton lisle to go with the rest of the home-in-the-kitchen clothing), while the lady on the right has shiny hose -- they're not as shiny as greatgramma's because the light is hitting them differently, and it's possible that they're artificial silk.
posted by jlkr at 6:12 PM on December 6, 2009


Agreed that she is wearing white stockings and regular shoes. Follow the ground from the other two sets of feet, and you'll see that, if she did have robot legs made of bent pipes, she'd also be floating three inches off the ground.
posted by mmoncur at 8:15 PM on December 6, 2009


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