Spats by Bond Street, T&CC 1994.6.11a,b (with original box, button hook, and bottle of cleanser)
by Mekhi Granby
Categorized as a footwear accessory, spats are shoe and leg coverings that fasten under the bottom of the shoe and button up the side. Originally, spats were designed to protect shoes and ankles from mud and water while walking. Spats were worn in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by both men and women.
We’re fortunate to have a 1920s pair from Bond Street Spats in the Textile & Costume Collection made of gray wool felt with leather straps and metal buckles. Bond Street Spats also offered the style in pearl, light fawn, and dark fawn. An advertisement on behalf of the brand printed in 1929 reads, “the finest imported spats in quality, fit, finish, and smartness.” According to the same ad, the spats were manufactured through Williams Shoe Manufacturing Company based in Portsmouth, Ohio. Our pair includes the original box, label, and a shoe button hook. A button hook is a tool used to support the closure of buttoned shoes, gloves, or other garments.
The spats, box, and button hook will need to be stored safely and this is where things get interesting. To properly preserve each of the components, a box will be crafted that takes the unique needs of each piece into consideration. Within the box, there will be a number of compartments to separate each of the pieces. The box starts off as a single sheet of Gaylord Archival® 30 x 40″ B-flute Corrugated Board which is acid-free, lignin-free, and buffered to resist acid migration. This sheet is then precisely cut and strategically creased to take the shape of a box.
At this stage, the box is without a lid which leaves room for creating the compartments within. The sections are fenced off to limit contact between the components and to reduce movement within the box. Having direct contact between the items could be problematic in the long-run.
The compartments are sectioned off with corrugated board. Before gluing the borders, measurements were taken based on which piece would live in the space dedicated to it. The material used is the same and so is the technique; the application is what’s different. These wall-like borders are then glued to secure their position within the box.
Underneath each component there will be an added layer of corrugated board. This layer is completely flat and will not be glued down. The additional layer serves as a platform for the spat to rest on with twill tape ties used to lift the platform out of the box (instead of having to grab onto the actual spat). The reason being is because it is preferable that the components be accessible without direct contact. The archival tying tape serves as a handle for the platform and is attached on opposite sides of the layer of corrugated board. The tying tape is made from 100% unbleached cotton, is non-abrasive, and reusable.
After everything is happily settled within the box, the second to last step is to begin making the lid. The lid will mirror the length and width measurements of the rest of the box with an additional half-inch. This extra half-inch allows the lid to be easily removable. The height of the lid is a standard three inches to allow room for labeling purposes. The last step in the box-making process is to create and place the label. The label will have a photograph(s) that depict the contents inside of the box, the accession number, and the box number. Having a picture label on the outside of each box eliminates the need to open it as often. An example of what this looks like is shown below.
While creating custom boxes can be a challenge at times, the outcome makes the temporary troubles worthwhile. Knowing that these spats with their original packaging and contents will be stored in a way that gives protection from danger or risk is gratifying. These Bond Street Spats are an amazing example of how thoroughly items in the Textile and Costume Collection are cared for.