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Stepping Out of the Shadows

Staff from the Herbert were thrilled to be invited to view vintage shoes discovered in a back room at Charles Ager shoe shop last week. The shoes had been found in boxes tucked away in a cupboard, and hadn't seen the light of day in years.

The shoes range from beautiful ladies evening shoes made in Belgium to tiny leather children's clogs. There was even a single black ladies shoe which was burnt and melted, and Sue Atherton from Charles Ager thought that it may have been rescued after the shop was bombed during the Blitz on 14 November 1940.

Charles Ager has been in business in Coventry since 1840, initially making boots and clogs for working people. As demand increased for more fashionable styles, they began importing elegant leather shoes from Italy, France and Belgium. One of the vintage pairs found are very narrow, made from red and black leather and date from between 1900 – 1915.

The newly opened Keeping Up Appearances exhibition at the Herbert features a pair of gold braided dancing shoes from the 1920s, which were designed and made in Paris for Charles Ager. They were donated to the Herbert in 1963 and are a beautiful example of evening footwear from the time. Staff from Charles Ager have been invited to the Herbert to view the shoes and to see the other treasures in the extensive costume collection.

Ali Wells, Curator of Social History at the Herbert was able to give advice on storage and preservation of the shoes, so that they would survive to tell