Curator's Choice: Ciara Phipps on colourful court shoes at Newcastle's Discovery Museum

By Ciara Phipps | 14 May 2013

Curator's Choice: Ciara Phipps, of the Discovery Museum in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, slips into court shoes from Bainbridge and Co Ltd, Paris between 1900 and 1920...

A photo of a female curator holding up an ancient black shoe inside a museum
“These shoes are a great example of the decorative additions and coloured heels of the shoes associated with the 1920s.

They were handmade in Paris expressly for Bainbridge and Co Ltd, and are said to have been used by a lady called Miss Murgatroyd, who danced all over Britain and the continent.

Dramatic shoes with coloured and decorated heels were very popular during the years after the First World War.

Unlike the previous decades, in which floor length skirts and yards of fabric would hide the feet and shoes, the shorter skirt lengths of the 1920s and the popular dance moves of the era were designed to draw more attention to the legs and feet.

This created a fascination with footwear which is still prevalent today. Decorations such as lace, embroidery, feathers and rosettes were often added to the shoes, and the Louis and Cuban heels grew taller and taller.

Bainbridge and Co Ltd dates back to 1838, when Emerson Muschamp Bainbridge went into partnership with William Alder Dunn to open a fashion shop and drapers on Newcastle's Market Street.

By 1849 there were 23 separate departments recording weekly takings. It was the first department store in the world.

After an offer from the John Lewis Partnership in 1952, the ownership of Bainbridge was transferred to John Lewis.

In 1976 the store was relocated to the Eldon Square shopping centre in the city, where it still resides today.

The store continued to operate under the Bainbridge brand until a further refurbishment took place in 2002 which saw the company’s name change to John Lewis.

At the time of its demise, the Bainbridge name was one of the longest continuously trading department store brands in the world. It is still known to many in the local area as Bainbridge.”
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