Seduction, transformation, allure, status, movement, privilege, royalty, pleasure and pain were all concepts associated with shoes in the ‘Shoes: Pleasure & Pain” exhibition I visited at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. An exploration into the extremes of footwear throughout history and around the globe – what more could I ask for? A decent pair of shoes to wear to the exhibition, that’s what!
“Walking around a shoe exhibition without wearing heels is like going to the ball in a pair of jeans” – a quote from someone whose shoe collection was displayed in this exhibition. Now I was travelling around Europe with one suitcase, so I went to the ball in a pair of jeans. No, I’m not proud of it and yes, I felt very judged (which was fair enough). I’d never before seen a room filled with so many people wearing coats over their shoulders and felt hats indoors. I felt at home.
This exhibition was filled with bizarre, elegant and inspiring shoes. And for anyone who denies that shoes can be inspiring, as said by Roger Vivier “to wear dreams on one’s feet is to give reality to one’s dreams”. There was shoes by Mary Quaint (the inventor of the mini skirt) which had daisy imprints on their soles, thus leaving a trail of daisies behind the wearer. There was 3D digitally printed shoes. There was Louboutins, Manolo Blahniks, Sophia Websters, Nicholas Kirkwoods (a personal favourite), anything a cult shoe lover could ask for. There was VERY FEW actually wearable / walkable / practical (I’m not actually familiar with this word – could someone explain it to me?) shoes, but that’s beside the point. After all, Cinderella is proof that a pair of shoes can change your life. And her glass slippers (which did feature in this exhibition, obviously) were certainly anything BUT practical.