It has become somewhat customary that I go see exhibitions as they are about to close. Shoes: Pleasure or Pain at the Victoria & Albert Museum is certainly a captivating show: a thorough look into the history of vanity, torture, seduction, and art. Musketeer boots that made wearers have a bow-legged gait, 3-inch lotus shoes for Chinese girls who could only squeeze into them after years of painfully binding their feet, skyscraper heels and glittery flats, platforms, and stilettos in all shapes and colours… At this exhibition, there is no shoe-shaming — only acceptance and pure show.
The exhibition is organised by theme: shoes that are aimed to seduce, shoes to empower, shoes to drool over. But again and again, the curator circles back to exploring how shoes became an object of desire. Why? This question has always worried me: why do people consider shoes, especially high heels, to have sexual connotations? Why shoes and not, let’s say, bags? Arguably, some shoes are capable of inciting certain fantasies but so are bracelets adorning delicate wrists, so are lace collars and bows, so are many other accessories and items of clothing.
Why consider shoes full of innuendos and hidden promises? A clumsily shoehorned argument, I think, that can unashamedly be filed under the “patriarchy made us do this…”
What shoes are, though, is a status symbol. The higher your social standing, the less concerned you are with matters of practicality such as not wearing suede in the rain or having to walk to your bus stop in 5-inch stilettos.
We were not allowed to take any pictures at the actual exhibition but I wore a sapphire blue dress with red suede shoes and simply had to pose for some fashion shots!
Exhibition closes on 31 January 2016, and do let me know if you manage to squeeze in a visit before then! I’d love to hear your thoughts.
All pictures are clickable.