Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Shoes - Pleasure and Pain Exhibition at the V&A

This exhibit is being held at the Fashion Rotonda at the V&A which is strengthening its role in fashion exhibitions to rival the MET.
Even though it is aimed at the fashion crowd I think it would also be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in history and sociology.

There are very few items that apply to both men and women and has expressed so much about one's status or desired place in society as the seemingly simple shoe.

I was invited to the preview and nearly didn't go because 
I have so many errands to do before I go away 
but thought I would just drop in a few minutes and 
ended up staying 40 minutes making me late the rest of the day...

As this is a quick last minute edited post for your viewing
 please excuse the cursory pictures taken on my iphone but just wanted to share the pictures for those who may not be able to attend the exhibit held from June 13 until January 31, 2016.
 Please click here for better photos and more insight.

The most famous fable with a shoe as the a character almost its own was Cinderella.

It turns out that the most commonly known version of a lost shoe fitting its rightful owner dates back to 1st century Egypt.

This shoe is one of the oldest shoes molded in the modern known style and dates back to the Egyptian glory days.

They also had the famous glass slipper that was used in the most recent Cinderella movie, the original black Manolos that Carrie Bradshaw wore in Sex and the City, and the very same red ballerina shoes that were in the 1948 film "The Red Shoes".

Sex and the City was the definitive show that justified the average woman spending an exorbitant sum of her money on shoes. Before Carrie, only the "well heeled" ( pun intended) would spend that sort of money on shoes but it is now the norm.

Personally I have resented Carrie for enabling so many women who can't afford designer goods to purchase them. The most tragic episode of Sex and the City was when Carrie wants to buy an apartment but realizes most of her wealth was in her "shoe portfolio"!
Alas that is another post...

I show a regular sized shoe next to the Chinese silk slipper to demonstrate how painful the ancient practice of foot binding must have been. 
And I complain after a few hours in two inch heels!

The main thing I noticed is how shoes can depict a certain era and yet even shoes from the Napoleonic era seemed to be easily marketed this day.
Although I would not wear these ribboned fur trimmed boots, 
we all know there is a market for them out there somewhere.

Espadrilles are a summer staple and yet like most "chic" things originated from the peasant world...
They were what Catalonian peasants wore.

There were some shoes of historical significance.
These mules were worn by Queen Henrietta Maria, the mother of my favorite king - Charles 2nd.

They also had a pair of shoes from one of my least favorite monarchs.

These shoes might not be good for the arches but pushes the design of the shoe.

Christian Louboutin did not invent the red heel / sole.
French arisotos did that several hundred years ago.
Plus ca change...

I thought these were ornamental brushes until I read the caption and they were silver shoes for Indian brides.  
Not meant for your modern day commute.

The book below were engravings for designs to be sewn on mules.

This was a Manolo shoe deconstructed.

There was another section that showed more about the construction of shoes and these three yellow shoes demonstrated the slight variation needed in the arch and heel ratio.

There were examples of modern designs trying to develop the shoe into different models.

I quite like all these heels.
It made me want a basic mold where I could interchange just the heel bit.

This is how socialites packed their shoes a hundred years ago.
Before Easyjet darlings.

There was a very mediocre shoe from Imelda's notorious collection.
But apparently she only had 1060 shoes thank you very much!

Why do we like heels?
Apparently, it's always been about status.

Guess who else was there?
Suzy Menkes - I have been reading her in the Herald Tribune since I was in primary school and made my day by smiling at me.

I would wear this shoe on my neck or wrist as it is encrusted with diamonds and other precious jewels.  
Not made for the streets of London.

But I also found beauty in these moccassins with a simple focal point.

But I must end this post with the shoes of someone who I have read about and was intrigued about back from the days when I used to be a Francophile.
These are the Pompadour mules.
I just felt this design was thought through and everything was done to ensure a women's seductive powers!

Take care!
PS There are some pictures on this article for those who are interested.


  1. Many thanks for posting this Naomi and for alerting us to the Exhibition.
    Don't know how they could smile seductively when wearing some of these shoes. Smiles must have been hiding silent screams of pain. The Pompadour's shoes seem to be pushing all her weight onto her poor toes, not the ball of the foot.
    It almost makes me glad I have an excuse not to wear some of these extraordinary creations, more like instruments of torture than footwear. But on the note of torture, now I know the real red shoes are there, will just have to visit this exhibition. As a little girl I just loved that movie and still watch it whenever it comes on late night television. The digital remake is good, but it's left out some of the most wonderful moments in the final ballet scenes, sadly.
    Have always been fascinated by Queen Victoria. Years ago when we lived in the UK we quite often used to stay with one of her great grand-daughters (and her husband) so heard a lot about her. Have a great holiday! Pammie

    1. I just can't warm to old Vic!!! Her poor children. I think much of the windsors dysfunction stems from her - mind you her mum was a momager of her day..! See you soon x

  2. Oh how fascinating! Interesting to look at something so mundane and common through different eyes. it's just a shoe but so important and one can learn so much!

    1. Yes I thought it was going to be from a purely fashion perspective so was delighted it was much more!

  3. I would so much have loved to be there with you!

  4. I'm going to move heaven and earth to make it to London in December and definitely will take this in.
    Well done Naomi.

  5. one of those posts you never want to end. fascinating!! on my to do list when i get there in october
    happy travels to you

    1. You should book at least half a day for the museum!

  6. Oh you make me want to return to London so much! My husband is keen to return, but am resisting - but the heels! The wearing heels like the Manolos is what got me to the (foot) trouble im in. Thanks for doing the London thing Naomi - I do miss it.,

    1. Sometimes I get so antsy to leave but then stuff like this keeps me quiet for a bit!

  7. Would have been fun to have pictures of the feet that went into those shoes!

  8. well.... Carrie didn't have the money to buy herself a house but thanks to those Manholos's she married a millionaire...... Shoes , in her case, were a wise and thoughtful investment. ;-)

  9. Thank you for this post, it has reminded me to put the exhibition on my 'must see' list! Some of the shoes in your photos look like instruments of torture but I would happily pop about in Queen Vic's little pumps.

  10. LOVED this!It goes perfectly with my HIGH STYLE POST!
    So, where are you off to..........I guess we will find out soon enough!Have a Wonderful trip.............

  11. Fascinating exhibit. I adore the V&A. We have a shoe museum in Toronto, which is lovely (albeit child unfriendly so they ruffled my feathers a few times when I had little ones.) I think the buy shoes instead of a house thing is absurd. I hope that trend has passed!

  12. Ah, will be missing this one sadly, as I've no trip to London lined up this summer. I recall several years ago seeing a fascinating shoe exhibit at the San Francisco International Airport, where the oddest-looking shoes were grouped together for travelers' viewing pleasure. Some of those 70's platform shoes were out of this world and caused one to wonder how it was that the wearer managed to escape without injury.

    I always make a point of visiting the V&A several times during my stays in London. Always something new to see and even the old stuff never gets that old.

    Enjoy your tirp.

  13. How much I would love to go to this exhibition. I could easily spend hours there. I had thought Cinderella was from an ancient chinese tale (and so foot binding was related), so the egyptian link was new. Fascinating. I have to say I saw the new Cinderella movie with my daughter and didn't like it at all. I spent much of the movie eye rolling to myself in the dark, it was not remotely updated, but the costumes were interesting (Cate Blanchettes at any rate).
    Back to shoes. Agree with you about the Madame de Pom one, it really is quite exquisite. The yellow stilettos look completely punishing. As I discovered last year when looking for a new pair of black patent high heels, what I actually was looking for was classified as low heeled - high has dizzying heights now compared to even 10 years ago. I feel old even thinking that. Agree with you about Carrie Bradshaw. My biggest pet peeve is the concept of investment dressing (shoes, bags). Why do we all think we're so special we need 'luxury' goods. That hermes china thread on the Purse Forum is a continued source of complete fascination for me - all those Hermes mugs filled with gatorade in very very average looking houses. Same with the Birkins that don't get to exactly fly first class anywhere…. Enjoy the holiday x

  14. What an amazing exhibit. Really good point about Carrie Bradshaw, I'd never made the connection, how she was singly responsible for the proliferation of mass-market luxury shoes.


Thank you for dropping by!