Square-toed with stack heels and large, eye-catching buckles, “pilgrim” shoes were introduced in 1962 by fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and shoe designer Roger Vivier. Immediately popular with consumers also drawn to the mini-skirts, paisley prints, and go-go boots that were part of the fashion scene in the youth-oriented “Swinging Sixties,” the pilgrim patent leather shoes were reinterpreted by many designers. These included Dior, whose label “Souliers (Shoes) Christian Dior,” is printed with a gold embossed stamp on the heel seat of the insoles of a pair that this year became a treatment project for Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation Fellow Natalya Swanson.
The size-8½-regular shoes belong to the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Costume and Textiles conservation department and have never been displayed. Made of leather coated with a dyed synthetic polymer laminated to a synthetic fabric, the shoes have no tears or breaks and show minimal damage related to their use. However, the uppers, tongues, and buckles are partially covered with blotchy, matted patches and a white haze, likely due to polymer deterioration in the patent leather. Natalya's goals through conservation are to make the shoes exhibitable by removing the efflorescence and to reduce the rate of deterioration so the shoes do not become structurally unstable.