Hello lovely readers, like most of us, I have a complicated relationship with my shoes. I love and hate each pair in equal measure – they’re either comfortable but too functional or glamorous but decidedly difficult to wear. However, I do love shoes so you can imagine how happy I was to hear about the new exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum dedicated to footwear and titled, rather appropriately, Shoes: Pleasure and Pain.
Around two hundred pairs of shoes, some centuries old and some of the latest designs, make up this fabulous exhibition that leads you through five elements of shoe culture – the deadly sins of footwear if you will and, just like all sins, there’s plenty of guilty pleasure on show.
Looking at the transformative and seductive power of shoes, how shoes denote status, our obsession with shoes and how shoes themselves are designed and made, this is certainly an exhibition that allows you to indulge. As you’re whisked from childhood stories to sexy boots, the red heels of Louis XIV’s court to the red soles of the latest Louboutins, you’ll find your head spinning as you lust over and marvel at every pair on display.
Some of the shoes you’ll see at Pleasure and Pain have never been seen in an exhibition before, some are simply heavenly (the beaded silk and leather shoes by Roger Vivier for Christian Dior below) and some are simply mindboggling. How did women really walk in chopines or those ornate toe-knob padukas? There’s no doubting that shoes are so much more than simple pieces of footwear.
There’s a definite link between social status and shoes and that’s as true now as it has been in centuries past – now we all understand that Prada and Jimmy Choo mean luxury as much as people in years gone by who wore elaborate shoes were clearly not workers or labourers. We wear beautiful shoes now to make us feel special just as heroes and heroines in fairytales are given magical powers when they pull on certain shoes.
The shoes might change but what they do to us doesn’t.
If you’re interested in fashion, history, culture, the roles of men and women, design, craftsmanship or if you simply can’t resist a stunning pair of shoes then Shoes: Pleasure and Pain is a must-see exhibition. You’ll never see your footwear in quite the same light again and I can promise you that you might be newly thankful for those comfortable shoes in your wardrobe!
Credits: All images © Victoria & Albert Museum, London.