The V&A’s latest exhibition focuses on how footwear has been designed over the years for both comfort and style, revealing how shoes have become artwork in their own right.
Covering two floors of space (in the section where the wedding dress exhibition was), the display covers a wide range of types of shoes and history that makes it a fascinating exhibition to visit if you are in London.
Of course there is a feminine feel about it given women’s obsession with shoes (which is something that I suffer from!) but men’s shoes are also featured – including a pair of David Beckham’s football boots that have his eldest son’s name Brooklyn stitched onto it.
Shoes become works of art in this display which features the infamous Vivienne Westwood shoes that Naomi Campbell wore during a Paris catwalk, causing her to fall over due to the 21cm high heels! Also on display are a pair of Alexander McQueen heels that prove that shoes don’t always have to be about comfort but about displaying your individuality.
The bottom half of the exhibition has been divided into three very different sections, which show the diversity and versatility of shoes.
‘Transformation’ focuses on the myth and legend element of shoes, containing the different cultural representations of the Cinderella story. Visitors can see the glass slipper that was designed and created for Disney’s live action version of the fairytale, which was released in cinemas earlier this year.
Meanwhile in the ‘Status’ section, the display examines how impractical shoes have been worn to represent privileged lifestyles. The design and material of these shoes can make them unsuitable for walking – therefore the wearer has to be chauffeured around and dictates how the wearer moves.
However, this section also shows that historically the fashion for shoes originally came from European courts in comparison with today where fashion designers dictate what is going to be popular for the season ahead.
Finally, the ‘Seduction’ part of the display downstairs represent the desire and pleasure shoes can bring to people – with examples of shoes including tight laced boots and extreme high heels taking the centre stage.
There is also a couple of nice films in the exhibition that show how footwear has become important in films clips from films such as The Wizard of Oz, Some Like it Hot and Saturday Night Fever feature as well as interviews with several prominent shoe designers can be watched as you make your way around the exhibition.
The only main problem with this display is the because it takes place in a quite confined space so if it gets busy it may take you a while to get to see the shoes properly on display. It feels just a bit crammed in places – but overall the presentation is great.
As you head upstairs, the focus on shoes switches to the process of making and designing them. Depending on the style, it can take up to 200 stages before a pair of shoes can be completed – many of which you can’t see when looking at the shoe completed.
Overall, if you love your shoes then you need to pay a visit to this exhibition as you will learn more than you would expect to in a display of this kind.
Shoes: Pleasure & Pain is on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum until the 31st January 2016. For more information visit: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/exhibitions/shoes-pleasure-and-pain/about-the-exhibition/ .