Sources & Inspiration:
Hispanic Costume 1480-1530 Anderson, Ruth Matilda. Hispanic Society of America, 1979
Images of extant chopines and of chopines from period artwork. Some discussion of materials etc.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston http://www.mfa.org/
Just search for Chopines to see eight fabulous Italian & Venetian examples
Victoria & Albert Museum http://www.vam.ac.uk/
A search for Chopines brings up a gorgeous Spanish pair
Bata Shoe Museum http://www.batashoemuseum.ca/
See the exhibition "On a Pedestal", which includes three pairs of Spanish chopiens
Chopine, Zoccolo, and Other Raised and High Heel Construction Classe, Francis http://aands.org/raisedheels/
Includes detailed lessons punctuated with helpful images. The first place to go for learning how to make chopines. Also includes period illustrations and select extant items.
Courtly Dance of the Renaissance Caroso, Fabritio trans. Sutton, Julia
Suggested techniques for walking/dancing in chopines
I had long desired a pair of chopines or perhaps pantofles to wear at events. Such silly shoes really are the ultimate dress accessory.
It seems that, after finding some spectacular resources on the internet, Sir Callum MacLeod also came to the conclusion that I was in need of a pair of proper Spanish chopines. Indeed, after Canterbury Faire he very kindly offered to make a pair. We then spent some time pouring over the examples in Hispanic Costume 1480-1530, for additional inspiration, and he took some measurements. Not long afterwards he presented me with a lovely pair of hand-and-a-half-high chopines (right).
The bases were constructed from pine boards, laminated together and then carved to shape. (The length is a little shorter than my shoed foot, so that the toes hang over the front ever so slightly.) The undersides were slightly hollowed out in order to reduce weight, so that wearing them might be more comfortable. The bases were covered in cream brocade while the uppers were constructed from leather then covered in brocade and lined in blue wool twill. Each side of the upper had three eyelets (through the leather, brocade and wool lining) sewn on each side. The sole and insole are leather. The sole, which is lightly decorated, is stitched on diagonally through the wooden base and the brocade covering.
Sir Callum then gave his blessing to me applying some additional decoration to the chopines in order to "bling them well up", as he put it. After testing nearly every trim and braid in my collection, I settled on a bright gold. I chose that particular colour because it would bring out the creaminess of the fabric, and because it would help the chopines look more integrated with most of my garments, which are also trimmed with gold. I chose a narrow gold cord for a lattice design on the uppers that would accentuate the pattern in the brocade, and a wider gimp trim to provide a border and 'finish' the design. Most of the trim was sewn in place, but some was attached with glue and tacks where it was impossible to stitch. The tack heads were then covered in small cabochon "pearls".
After wearing, however, I have decided that further adornment is necessary. Most of the chopines in period images seem to be far more boldly and lavishly decorated. Add to this vague dissatisfaction the fact that Sir Callum has found evidence of covers for the bases of Spanish chopines that are simply tied in place, and you get an idea of my next project.
When Sir Callum presented me with the finished (but then undecorated) chopines, it was, of course, imperative that I test them immediately. They proved to be a little awkward, but not as difficult to walk in as anticipated. After five minutes it became clear that I would definitely need to build up strength and stamina. It was also evident that it is easy enough to reduce the clomping and clattering noises derided by Fabritio Caroso in his Nobilita di Dame by employing his suggested techniques, but that eliminating such an unpalatable racket entirely is somewhat more difficult. The short period of practice was enough to suggest that dancing a pavane would not be out of the question relatively quickly, but that surviving a galliard would take considerably more expertise.
I revelled in wearing the chopines at Baronial Anniversary (where my walking technique was quickly refined to "walk like John Wayne") and I spent most of the evening circulating around the feast wearing them. However one thing caught me by surprise every time. That was the distance down to (and up from) seating. It proved difficult, nay, nigh on impossible to sit or rise with any degree of grace. (To make matters worse, the thighs protested the treatment the next day.) Chairs with arms would have been a substantial help.
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