For my current work-in-progress, I had to research nineteenth shoe fashions, and I learned that during the 1800s, women's shoes became more varied in style than those of men, for the first time (see two-toned shoes in photo to the right, 1860s Balmoral boot).
During Victoria's long period of mourning for Albert, dark shoes came into fashion and remained popular during the latter decades of the century, when women were not supposed to draw attention to themselves. From the images, though, it's clear they found a way to bring attention to a slim ankle, even while wearing the modestly dark colors.
Styles changed with each decade, although boots were pretty much the standard for ladies' footwear. At first, boots had side laces, with sometimes up to sixteen lace holes, like these to the right, (Courtesy Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto). The boots were most often flat-heeled. Later, during mid-century, front lace boots were popular, like the ones in the photo to the right. Later, during the latter part of the century, button boots with openwork were all the craze, allowing the male observer to get a glimpse of the fashionable hosiery worn beneath.
I love shoes, and have too many, as most of us do, but after looking at some of these boots, I almost wish they would come back in fashion, because I love the look, flirty and sensible at the same time.