Intriguing descriptions of what people wore

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IT’S not hard to distract me from whatever I may be doing, by putting an old paper under my nose.

Different aspects of the past intrigue different people.

I’m especially fascinated by clothing.

I love Dickens, for example, for his detailed descriptions of the garments his characters wear, such as the snuff-brown colour of a ‘frowsty’ (stale, or musty) suit.

So I was fascinated when I recently came across the escape of a prisoner from Durham Gaol in the early years of the 19th century.

He was 27 years old, of short stature and with a face “much scarred by smallpox.”

He was described as wearing a gosling-green coat, a light-coloured waistcoat, corduroy trousers and – and this is what tickled me – right and left shoes.

Well, as if he’d be wearing anything else, you think.

But while it does sound bizarre, it becomes significant when you realise that for centuries, shoes were often simply straight and not shaped to match the feet!