There are very few Nisbet dolls that do not have some sort of footwear - In fact, the only doll we can think of who has bare feet is the Belly Dancer - but that is a requisite of her profession! All the rest are shod in various designs and fashions, using a variety of techniques -
For certain types of dolls, (many of the National, Historical, and Happy Dolls), their footwear was painted on - In fact, we believe some were dip-painted; The doll's feet were lowered into a dish of paint at an angle, to simulate the sides, back, and sole of the shoe, and dipped a second time, to paint the toecap. This technique was possible because the feet were modelled as a smooth shape, without toes; it was quick and easy to achieve a good effect, (in the hands of a skilled person), and it was economical. The feet of both male and female dolls were often finished in this way. In the examples above, you can see typical examples of slippers painted onto the feet of female dolls, and boots painted onto the feet of a military character
We have used the term "Slippers", to describe any footwear made of fabric. These are most usually found on dolls from the Portrait and Limited Edition series, and may often be made from material that matches the doll's costume. The fabric slippers shown above are to be seen on three different variations of P/400 Queen Elizabeth II - Coronation Robes - Note also that Her Majesty is also wearing real nylons!
Some other dolls, (including very early Portrait models of King Henry VIII's wives also occasionally had cloth slippers - but no nylon stockings, as these weren't available until 1940!
Some dolls, (particularly from the "Portrait" and "Limited Edition" series had more elaborate footwear. Many of the male dolls, (particularly the Royal and Aristocratic characters), wear real leather shoes, often adorned with buckles and bows, and occasionally with buttons, too. As you will see from the pictures above, the leather shape was stuck to the foot, and stretched and folded forward, to produce a seam running down along the centre front of the foot. This was later trimmed, to produce the very effective "shoes" seen above. Unfortunately, over time, the adhesive has dried or failed, and many of the shoes will have begun to gape down the top, and at the toes!
Many of the male dolls, from all series, have rugged leather boots, which reflect either their occupation, or their status. These items of footwear were made in a different manner to the leather shoes, being stitched and pulled on to the doll like a pair of socks. They were longer than shoes, extending up the doll's legs to the knees. Some varieties of boot were held in place with leather thongs or straps - These are found particularly on early British Kings and Chieftains, and on some Scottish kings and warriors. Of particular interest are the studded boots worn by H/568, A Pilgrim in the Reign of King John. In those early times, pilgrims would walk across Europe in Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Santiago de Compostela, (Saint James the Great, in Compostela), in Galicia, North West Spain. It is typical of Peggy Nisbet's attention to detail that she would give her Pilgrim doll authentic and hard-wearing footwear for his long and arduous journey, which was invariably completed on foot.
These clogs belong to an early and very attractive N/109 Holland Dutch Girl. Although her clogs look as if they have been carved from wood, they are made from moulded rubber. Once upon a time, (perhaps in the late 1950's or early '60s, when this doll was first made), these clogs would have been soft and flexible, allowing them to be slipped on and off her feet. Unfortunately, 50 years on, they have dried out and hardened, and any attempt to remove them would most likely cause them to crumble beyond repair.
These stylish skates grace the slim feet of T/104 Sonia the Skater. Whilst the pictures on the left and in the centre show how an elegant paint job can emulate a skater's boot, the picture on the right shows how the metal blade has been fixed to the doll's foot. The blade has been heated sufficiently to allow the two tangs or pins that form part of the actual blade to be pushed into the plastic of the foot. As the tangs have been pushed in, the plastic has melted; as it cools and hardens, the blade is securely held.
Fitting the blades must have been quite a skilful job - If not inserted parallel to the sole of the foot, Sonia would not be able to stand; If inserted too deep, there was a danger that they might distort the top of the foot, or even come out through it, redering the doll a write-off.