Shoes @ The V&A

(c) Victoria and Albert Museum
(c) Victoria and Albert Museum

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to see the Shoes: Pleasure and Pain exhibition at the V&A this week. If you get the chance, go! (Two for one on tickets with a Waterstones card, by the way).

It’s arranged in the circular structure in the permanent fashion section of the museum. It feels a little small to start with and gets warm so leave heavy coats in the cloakroom. The displays, lighting and videos are excellent however. There are a LOT of shoes over two floors, arranged around recurring themes of desire and status. Some are very old and some have disturbing stories, like the tiny shoes worn by women with bound feet in the 19th century. Some are amusing and most are simply lovely. Highlights include Cinderella’s crystal slipper from the recent movie, the Vivienne Westwood platforms that Naomi Campbell famously tumbled off, and Marilyn Monroe’s stilettos (she was about a size 5.5 I reckon).

Upstairs is light and bright. Watch a looped series of interviews with well known designers (I loved hearing Manolo Blahnik’s rant about how unnecessary mood boards are) and a mesmerising 5 min film of a pair of brogues being made by hand. There’s a fascinating display about how shoes are made, with drawings and bits and bobs relating to celebrities and famous designers.

I came away wanting to design tango shoes with crystal straps (Jimmy Choo), zip fronts (Alexander McQueen) and heavy beading (Christian Dior). A fascinating and inspiring afternoon.

Shoes: Pleasure and Pain runs until the end of January 2016 and standard entry is £12.


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