A court shoe (British English), or pump (American English), is a shoe with a low-cut front, or vamp, with either a shoe buckle or a black bow as ostensible fastening. Deriving from the 17th and 18th century dress shoes with shoe buckles, the vamped pump shape emerged in the late 18th century. By the turn of the 19th century, shoe buckles were increasingly replaced by black bows, which has remained the contemporary style for men's formal wear, leather or patent leather evening pumps ever since. This latter style is sometimes also called an opera pump or opera slipper.
The construction of pumps is simple, using a whole-cut leather top with a low vamp, lined with either quilted silk or plain leather, trimmed with braid at the opening. The full leather 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 is made of grosgrain silk or rayon, in a pinched or flat form.
For women, pumps with a strap across the instep are called Mary Janes. Pumps may have an ankle strap.