Still Lifes with Shoe Clips

Or should that be Still Lives?

I thought it might be fun to create still lifes with some of my shoe clips. I tried a few different backgrounds – our wooden end table, our resin table with rocks, and a red scarf but none of them seemed very interesting. I picked up one of my books for inspiration and had an “aha” moment – I’ll use the illustrations in the book for the background! Here are the results of my experiment.

Brown and gold shoe clips

Black and silver shoe clips

The book is the 1928 book Paris Salons, Cafés, Studios by Sisley Huddleston. The author wrote vignettes about life in Paris in the early part of the twentieth century, ranging from the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore to notable French women to morbidity and snobbery. Though only a few of the shoe clips illustrated are from this period, I decided artistic license was more important.


Art Deco? or Victorian? shoe decorations

It’s been an interesting challenge to figure out when these lovely shoe decorations were made, and what they are made of. They’re heavy for their size, have shiny silver looking backs, and no jeweler’s marks or numbers indicating they’re sterling. I’m not sure they’re steel because they’re pretty scratched on the backs, and soft enough to have bent in some places; to me they look too smooth to be pot metal but that’s just my amateur opinion.

Shoe decoration

Shoe decoration - back view

The fronts look like cut steel with lots of little rhinestones or paste. When viewed with a loupe, the handwork and details are just amazing. The metal has been hand carved with tiny round metal spheres alongside the rhinestones. The whole clip is hand-wrought with geometric cut-outs. Each straight edge on the piece, both interior and exterior, are scalloped. Someone put a lot of work into every detail.

The stones appear discolored to the naked eye but when I look at them with a loupe, it looks as though the metal underneath the stones is very tarnished, not so much the stones. Maybe they are sterling or silver plated? Maybe they are just really dirty but I’ve learned the hard way never to soak rhinestone jewelry in liquid – I’ve ended up with a sad mess of loose stones with the foil backs permanently destroyed.

These lovely shoe decorations are often called shoe buckles but they don’t actually function as a buckle. These can be either sewn to the vamps of a pair of shoes, or they can slide over shoe straps that buckle on the side.

So, I’m still not sure when these were made. They’re not completely steel cut, which was popular through the late 1890s. The geometric shape reminds me of the Art Deco era, and I did find one similarly constructed pair of shoe decorations on So, I’m going with Art Deco but still don’t know what kind of metal. A little mystery in life is good, yes?