Court shoe

Court shoes (British English) or pumps (American English) are shoes with a low-cut front and usually without a fastening. However, some have ankle straps. They are usually worn by women, but are still traditional menswear in some formal situations, when they are sometimes called opera slippers or patent pumps.


As women's shoes

A pair of circular-head court shoes in black leather with 8 cm (3.14") stiletto heels

Court shoes for women are usually heeled. The shape is as dictated by the fashion of the time. In the UK, in 2007 a closed toe and wide (non-stiletto) heel were worn by the very fashion-conscious, but most still wore stilettos of mainly 'kitten' height to medium height. Outside the fashion trade in the UK, the term "pumps" would normally imply flat or low-heel dancing or ballerina pumps, or even rubber-soled canvas plimsolls.

Court shoes can be made from any material, but traditional patent leather is popular. Court shoes are mostly worn with a suit or a uniform, but are also worn with formal and informal dresses, skirts, trousers, and jeans. White, stiletto-heeled court shoes are the standard attire with swimsuits in beauty pageants.

Court shoes are also part of the costume of a ballroom dancer. They are made of satin, usually tan, though other colors are made as well, and worn on both the competition and practice floors.

As men's shoes

A patent leather court shoe, with grosgrain bow, quilted lining, and leather sole; as worn with white tie and sometimes black tie

In the Regency period, during the day men wore dress boots, and boots or court shoes by night, which accompanied silk knee-high stockings and breeches. The shoes originally had silver buckles, but these were removed by the influence of Brummel,[1] and a square grosgrain bow was added. By Victorian times, evening footwear was the court shoe when there would be dancing or music (hence the name opera shoe or opera slipper), and patent leather dress boots otherwise. Court shoes remained as standard for wearing with full dress until the 1930s.[2] At that time, the dress boot was also going out of fashion, as laced shoes began to be worn at all times.

Even though it now survives in much the same form as it was at the start of the 19th century[3] (though it is occasionally now worn with plain, not patent, calf), the court shoe has been largely displaced by Oxfords, perhaps because of an effeminate image and the declining use of white tie. It remains acceptable (though rare) with black tie, and, since formal boots are now hardly ever worn, court shoes are standard with white tie, their only remaining common use. They can be also seen today on British High Court Judges, and are still preferred with formalwear by many leaders of style.[4]

The construction of the court shoe is simple, using a wholecut leather top lined with non- leather cloth. The sole is either glued onto the bottom, common on cheaper styles, or sewn, as on more costly bespoke styles still made traditionally, using a shallow slit to lift a flap of leather around the edge to recess and hide the stitching. The sole is, as on ordinary shoes, several layers of leather put together. The bow, not always added, is made of grosgrain silk.



  1. ^ Antongiavanni (2006). p. 143
  2. ^ Flusser (2002). p. 251
  3. ^ Antongiavanni (2006). p. 175
  4. ^ Flusser (1985).ch. 2

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • court shoe — n BrE a type of plain formal shoe worn by women American Equivalent: pump …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • court shoe — ► NOUN Brit. ▪ a woman s plain, lightweight shoe that has a low cut upper and no fastening …   English terms dictionary

  • court shoe — court ,shoe noun count BRITISH a PUMP worn by a woman on her foot …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • court shoe — n. Brit. PUMP2 …   English World dictionary

  • court shoe — noun Etymology: so called from its use as a part of court dress Britain : pump III * * * Brit. pump2. [1880 85; so called from the fact that high heeled shoes were first worn in royal courts] * * * court shoe noun A low cut ladies shoe without… …   Useful english dictionary

  • court shoe — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms court shoe : singular court shoe plural court shoes British a very plain type of woman s shoe with a small heel and no fastening. The American word is pump …   English dictionary

  • court shoe — court shoes N COUNT Court shoes are women s shoes that do not cover the top part of the foot and are usually made of plain leather with no design. [BRIT] (in AM, use pumps) …   English dictionary

  • court shoe — noun A shoe with no fastening and a low cut front, formerly worn by men in formal situations but now usually with reference to womens footwear …   Wiktionary

  • court shoe — pump, low cut shoe …   English contemporary dictionary

  • court shoe — noun Brit. a woman s plain, lightweight shoe that has a low cut upper and no fastening …   English new terms dictionary

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