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Women's calf-length boots made from black leather from the Krakow costume are an example of Hungarian style boots. These are the oldest type of boots, which were characterised by stitching two pieces of leather together on the sides. The upper layers of the boots are stiffened at the top, and in the lower part the skin is characteristically concertinaed (“bellows”).

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Women's calf-length boots made from black leather from the Kraków costume are an example of Hungarian style boots. These are the oldest type of boots, which were characterised by stitching two pieces of leather together on the sides. The upper layers of the boots are stiffened at the top, and in the lower part the skin is characteristically concertinaed (“bellows”). This example of footwear is indicative of the versatility of the shoemaker’s skilled craftsmanship. Not only the production of the shoe, but above all, the richness of decorations is impressive in terms of meticulous attention to detail and craftsmanship. The shoes are sewn at the top of the uppers with artificial leather in red and feature decorative machine stitching, a shape reminiscent of, among others, the tulip flower and stems with leaves. At the top of the upper, from the centre to the sides, pieces of leather called “ears” are sewn, to help with putting the shoe on. The sole is made of leather and nailed with wooden pins, and the tapered heel is arched by a metal shoelace.
Shoes have been an object of desire and jealousy for centuries. Most of the time made from leather by skilled shoemakers, they were one of the most expensive elements of any outfit. Only a few wealthy residents of a Polish village could afford to buy footwear. In the vicinity of Kraków, people walked barefoot during the weekdays. Leather shoes, often richly decorated, were used only for going to church or various celebrations and in winter. Shoes, like other parts of the costly outfit, were given a special care and passed onto future generations. They were protected from damage by using simple preservatives: blackened and lubricated with fat, which made them resistant to water and stretching. The blacking was made of coal ground in sweet milk burnt from barley straw, while the marker came from cow's bristle. Above all, people tried to use them as little as possible. Hence, as Seweryn Udziela writes: “In summer, while going to the church or to the city, the dressed up inhabitants of Kraków carry their shoes in their hands (...). Only before the city, before the church, do they sit on the road and put their footwear on.” To protect the soles from abrasion, shoes, especially the heel, were often arched with metal horseshoe-shaped plates. Sometimes the entire heel was secured, by ferruling around it with a metal plate.
In the 19th century, women mainly used shoes with Hungarian type uppers. The women's Hungarian type is made up of the following parts: an upper, with two stitchings along the sides, an instep that makes up the front part of the shoe where the foot rests, the back part below the ankle, called the counter, and at the height of the ankle the leather is arranged in a harmonica called the 'windbag'. The top edge of the upper has so-called “ears”, helpful for putting the shoes on. In the interwar period, we can observe an increasing use of shoes, also on a daily basis. General changes in the village, related to industrialization and frequent contact with the city also influenced fashion. More and more often could you see shoes with high uppers, laced or buttoned being worn in the village , and in the summer period — half-booties. Shoes were usually not richly decorated, mainly in the form of stitching with black thread. Occasionally, a red, safian strap along the top of the boot was applied as a decorative element.
The presented pair of shoes were made in 1938 by a shoemaker Sinda from Mników, unknown by name. The shoemaker made shoes similar to those worn at the beginning of the 20th century. These shoes do not bear traces of use, which may indicate that they were sewn specifically to order for the Ethnographic Museum in Kraków. The museum’s collection also includes three other pairs of  Hungarian women’s shoes made by the shoemaker Sindy, from 1938. Probably all these shoes were made for the exhibition of the Kraków village unveiled by the Ethnographic Museum in June 1939 in the Włodkowic palace on Lubicz street in Kraków.

Elaborated by Ewa Rossal (The Seweryn Udziela Ethnographic Museum in Kraków), © all rights reserved
 

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Women's shoes with uppers from Mników

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