Someone who had a great deal of experience with collecting once told me that it was “not just about the frocks.” That really left an impression on me, and I did come to see what an important statement it was. You just can’t understand the history of dress without also looking at the accessories.
When it comes to sports attire, it seems to me that clothing is much easier to locate than accessories. I can think of many reasons why this might be so. For example, rubber was a common material used in swim accessories, and rubber, if not stored properly, has a nasty tendency to melt and rip. Also, sport shoes were often made of canvas, which would not have lasted like leather shoes would.
I spotted the beach shoes above in the Instagram feed of @garb_oh_vintage. Probably the only reason they did not sell immediately was because they are a relatively small size. That was good for me.
The seller had bought these in France some years ago. I was not surprised, as these have a look to them of walks along the Côte d’Azur . They are actually a play on the traditional espadrille, which originated in Spain, and which were very popular with the artistic set of France in the 1920s and 30s.
I found several very similar pairs in a 1936 advertisement for Lastex swimsuits. Lastex was “the miracle yarn that makes things fit” and was introduced in 1931, but did not come into common use until later in the decade.
The heels are made from wood, something that is seen quite commonly in this type shoe.
The shoes show signs of light wear, but not enough to rub off the size – a French 37.
The straps fasten with metal buckles, which are lightly rusted.
When I think of all the shortages and scarcities of the World War Two era, I have to wonder how any clothing from before that time survived intact, especially something like shoes.
I tend to collect things that were made for the American market, so it is interesting that these shoes are from France, and the late 1930s Reid’s Holiday Togs playsuit I posted earlier is from Canada. It’s even nicer that they look so fabulous together.