Cinderella’s glass slippers were probably only a bit more fragile than the unusual beauties we’re featuring from our museum collection – women’s shoes with Wedgwood Jasperware high heels!
Jasperware, non-glazed porcelain featuring classical figures in bas-relief, is virtually synonymous with the Wedgwood name. Founder Josiah Wedgwood conducted thousands of experiments, seeking to develop a material that would enable him to take advantage of a rapidly growing market for reproductions in bas-relief of Greco-Roman art. Wedgwood worked on the project from 1770 to 1774, and wrote to a friend after a series of less-than-successful experiments, “I am almost crazy.” But on January 1, 1775, Wedgwood announced that he had achieved his goal, and introduced the Jasperware material into production within a few months after his New Year’s Day announcement.
Women’s shoes with Jasperware high heels were the marketing idea of Sir Michael Rayne (1922-1992) of the H&M Rayne shoe company in England. The Wedgwood Jasperware shoe style was first released, according to the Wedgwood Museum online, at the Plaza Hotel in New York City and at the National Shoe Fair in Chicago in October 1958. (As early as the 18th century, Jasperware cameos were sometimes set into belt or shoe buckles!) Figures represented in the cameo on the backs of the Jasperware heels vary – the shoes in our collection probably were not produced in the original 1958 release, because the classical figure on the high heels was not included in that collection, although the shoes in our collection include two of the original colors, sage green and lilac. We know that the shoes in our museum were produced sometime between October 1958 and January 1978, when the most recent, and final, launch of restyled shoes with Jasperware heels was released in the United States.
According to writer Chris Hill in the “Fashion Encyclopedia,” Sir Michael Rayne, who trained in his family’s shoe manufacturing business in England (founded in 1889), was a bon vivant who spent much of his career living in Paris while marketing shoes successfully in the burgeoning U.S. market. H&M Rayne received its first Royal Warrant for shoe manufacturing early in the 20th century, and would receive additional support from the crown in later years (see Royal Warrants noted on the shoe box).
“At age 28, Edward Rayne was still a young man when he took control of the family firm,” the “Fashion Encyclopedia” notes, “and he led a hectic social life in Paris, enjoying night clubs and the company of fashion editors and glamorous diplomatic socialites. French and Italian design led the field in the 1950s and Rayne, from early on in his career, took an interest in promoting British design. In the 1950s when the buyers from important U.S. department stores came increasingly less often to London, Rayne courted them in the Paris couture houses and the fashionable night spots.”
Rayne combined his marketing efforts with collaborative efforts with some of the leading shoe designers of the day, along with high-quality manufacturing at his firm, resulting in stylish shoes that fit well and were comfortable to wear. So successful were Rayne’s productions that in the 1970s he was able to fulfill one of his “personal ambitions, his first shop in Paris.”
For his many years’ service on the British Fashion Council and to the shoe manufacturing industry in England, Sir Edward Rayne was awarded a knighthood in 1988.
While our women’s shoes with Wedgwood Jasperware high heels are not for sale, Replacements, Ltd. carries many selections of Jasperware, and a wide array of other Wedgwood patterns. Be sure to browse our web site. And remember that we always invite you to visit our facilities! Here you’ll find a stunning variety of silver, china, crystal, and collectibles! Our warehouse facilities (the size of 7 football fields) hold more than 13,000,000 individual pieces in more than 425,000 patterns! Our showroom and museum are open from 9:00am to 7:00pm ET, 7 days a week (except holidays); free tours are available from 10:00am to 6:00pm ET, 7 days a week. The showroom and museum are conveniently located between Greensboro and Burlington, NC, at exit 132 off Interstate 85/40. We look forward to seeing you!