Some of you may have already read my post about my invite to the preview of 'Shoes: Pleasure and Pain' at the Bowes Museum (here). I felt so privileged to be invited as a guest to such a prestigious event, but as the opening night was so busy, I was kindly invited back again to review the exhibition on a quiet Sunday morning when I could really spend time having a good old look at those shoes! So without further ado, here it is...
Starting just outside the fashion and textiles gallery, I was greeted by that wonderful neon sign once again, before following the red carpet into the amazing world of Shoes. Imagine the best walk-in-wardrobe you've ever seen for a shoe collection and you'll start to develop an idea of how amazing this beautiful exhibition is set out. Not to mention the thousands of red shoe laces suspended from the ceiling, creating a homely, cosy blanket feel to the setting, such an ingenious idea.
Following the little trail of footprints on the floor, prepare to be dazzled at the vast array of shoes on show. Being a luxury fashion lover, on my first viewing, my eyes were immediately drawn to the shoe designers I've come to know and love. From beautiful Manolo's that Carrie would be proud to own, to those amazing Vivienne Westwood Elevated Gillies, to offerings from Charlotte Olympia, Prada and Dior to name a few, it's difficult not to be enticed by the beautiful structuring and stunning embellishments. However, I felt as if I looked again this time and fell totally in love with the more historic shoes. In this day and age, shoes are bought for purpose, comfort or beauty, which I suppose hasn't changed throughout history. But I was amazed particularly at how many of the historic offerings were chosen for status or empowerment, particularly over women. It could be the use of embellishments to draw the voyeurs eyes to the feet of the elite, or curly toes to make an entrance, or the simple use of a heightened sole to put a woman on a pedestal-it's fascinating to see how shoes have played such an integral part in both fashion and function over the years. I suppose even today in the construction of a Louboutin shoe to draw focus to a pert bottom-shoes are still used as a status symbol even though we may not realise it. But can you imagine being bought white flat slippers like the women in 1851, in order that your husband could keep you indoors? No, me either (it would be more than his life was worth!!).
Silver Geta bridal shoes
Many of the historic shoes required the wearer to walk in a specific way in order to keep them on their feet, either by binding the toes so that the feet appeared smaller or didn't develop correctly like those from China, or by spreading the toes so that the shoes didn't fall off. And to think that all we have to contend with is whether the heels of our newly bought shoes will survive a trip over some cobbles!
Lotus shoes-binding is essential.
I made so many notes on my second visit to shoes; I couldn't get enough of learning about both the history and function of each piece, there really is something for everyone! I'd struggle to choose my favourite shoe from the exhibition. Initially, I fell in love with the Cinderella shoe from Disney's 2015 adaptation of the story. But I also adore the Roger Vivier for Christian Dior pink embellished shoes from the 1950s (I bought the postcard of these from the gift shop too!). Other favourites of mine are the Super-elevated Gillies as I've already mentioned, which are the Vivienne Westwood shoes that famously caused Naomi Campbell to fall on the runway in 1993 and the Charlotte Olympia 'Bananas is my Business' shoes, simply for their fun presentation.
Spot the Super-elevated Gillies-top right
My beloved Roger Vivier shoes sit pretty with other beautifully embellished shoes
It's interesting to visit the exhibition and listen to other people's reasons for their favourite choice of shoe. My Mam was particularly fond of the Pierre Hardy shoes that were designed for Kylie Minogue, whereas my niece loved the shoes from Ancient Egypt. I also loved the inclusion of the shoes from Josephine Bowes, a lady that holds such a special place in my heart and had such impeccable taste.
Whether a historian or fashion lover, I urge you all to visit 'Shoes: Pleasure and Pain' during its run (open until October 9th, 2016). I visited it at the V&A last year and whilst I enjoyed it there, there's something about its setting at The Bowes Museum that makes it even more special-you really feel like you're getting up close and personal with some of the world's most beautiful shoe creations!
I've seen it twice already, but I know I'll be going back, even if it's just to make a conclusive decision on which shoe is my favourite-wish me luck!!
'Shoes: Pleasure and Pain' runs until October 9th and tickets are available here. All images used in this post were kindly provided to me by the Bowes Museum and are copyright of the Bowes Museum (exhibition shots) and of the V & A (individual shoe photography). Many thanks once again to the museum staff, particularly Sheila Dixon, for inviting me to review the exhibition. All opinions are my own-I love this exhibition-please make sure you visit (and also visit the gift shop for some amazing shoe-related goodies!)
My gift shop goodies ('Love' is from YSL: Style is Eternal)