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The season of summer straw hats and sandals is behind us, but in Historic New England’s conservation lab, all manner of hats and shoes are undergoing treatment. We selected these hats and shoes for the upcoming exhibition, Head to Toe: Hats and Shoe Fashions from Historic New England, opening at the Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts, in the spring of 2018.
Hats and shoes often require special mounts to help support their complex shapes and to prevent further wear. A standard method of creating a support for a shoe is to insert a soft material into its full length, which may cover the interior entirely. Many of the shoes slated for exhibition have historic labels applied to the instep, denoting where they were bought and sometimes including colorful slogans such as “Rips Mended Gratis.”
In order to keep the labels visible while supporting the shape of the shoes, our conservators are working with Fosshape®. This felt-like textile is a proprietary polyester polymer nonwoven fabric that is available in two weights. Fosshape becomes semi-rigid as heat is applied, allowing it to conform to the shape of a pattern or prop. The result is a support for the object that is molded into the exact size and shape required.
For shoes with labels, our conservators are using Fosshape to create supportive inserts for the toebox section and dressing the inserts with color-matched show fabrics so that the finished mount will be entirely unobtrusive when on view in Head to Toe. A separate but equally unobtrusive system with a different material will support the rear of the shoe without covering up the label.
To help us with the conservation work needed for this exhibition, please consider a donation to the Collections and Conservation Fund.