Marianne Knight’s dancing slippers

Object name: Pair of white satin ladies dancing slippers with square toes and tie ribbons, early 19th century.

Object number: CHWJA: JAH119

Category: Object

Description: Pair of early 19th century white satin ladies dancing slippers with square toes and tie ribbons. The heel end is lined with chamois leather and the toe end in linen. The sole is pigskin. The slippers were previously the property of Jane Austen’s niece, Marianne Knight (1801-1896).

Made: Early 19th century

Context: Most ladies in the early 19th century would own at least three pairs of shoes: a pair of everyday shoes, a pair of walking boots and a pair of dancing slippers. Walking boots or shoes would be worn on the journey to the ball and, on arrival, the lady would change into the more delicate slippers for dancing. As was common at the time, this pair of dancing slippers does not have a left or right shoe, it would be up to the owner to wear them in over time. The tie ribbons served the dual purpose of helping secure the slippers on the feet whilst looking pretty.

The smooth, plain leather soles could be slippery on a polished ballroom floor and dancers would often chalk the bottoms of their shoes to improve grip. For some large Society balls, artists were hired to chalk beautiful designs on the ballroom floor that would then be worn away by the dancers over the course of the evening.

These slippers belonged to Marianne Knight, the seventh child of Jane’s brother Edward and his wife Elizabeth; they were donated to the Museum by a member of the family.

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