I like shoes as much as the next man, but nowhere near as much as the next woman (if the next woman really likes shoes). If you are one of those next women or one of those next men who really loves shoes, then read on.
Shoe Obsession is currently on the run at the FIT Museum (Fashion Institute of Technology) and for all shoe enthusiasts it’s a worthwhile visit. A word of warning, however, if you are susceptible to the “jealousy makes you nasty” adage. The growth of shoe ownership over the past fifteen years has seen the average American woman increase her pairs by almost 100% to what currently stands at around 20 pairs. The footwear exhibition showcases over 150 pairs of an extensive range of items.
Stepping out the Box
Aside from the sheer volume of the collection, it’s really the variety in style that gets people talking/induces jaw dropping. Dr. Valerie Steele is the director and head curator at the New York Museum at FIT and has published several fashion related books, not to mention her very niche ode to footwear, Shoes: A Lexicon of Style. It’s widely thought that the infatuation dates back to the fantastical creation of Cinderella’s glass slipper, which has led to recreations of the iconic fashion accessory. These days, however, that piece of fashion forward history pales in comparison to the concept pieces that are currently being rolled out, many of which are on show at the Shoe Obsession exhibition housed at MIT Museum.
Something about Function over Fashion?
How many times have you been out and seen that girl on the dance floor, stilettos in hand, braving the sticky ground beneath their feet? Well according to Dr. Steele the reason for the initial need to arrive clad in sexy stilettos is because shoes play a greater role as extensions of our body these days. They now contribute to the formation of opinions and impressions, less as pure accessories and more as inclusive fashion statements. They can completely dictate a look, a sentiment that elicits responses and judgements based on the perceived intention. They act as a symbol of feminism, of sexuality and of social status.
Getting down to business, the exhibition has no shortage of outrageous designs. From pin-thin stilettos to unnaturally high soles and conceptual extensions, there are pairs to love, hate, shock and astound. From Louboutin’s notorious red-soled wonders to a custom made, absurdly high-heeled pink pair fashioned for Lady Gaga by experimenter, Noritaka Tatehana. Or how about the Chanel Gun Heels, which as the name suggests sees the slipper supported at 45 degrees by a downward pointing pistol?
You can’t miss the white-trimmed red flames jutting out the back of a particular pair of Prada’s. One would imagine these were made as a purely conceptual piece for the exhibition, although anything’s possible these days. I didn’t give them the cold shoulder right away but I think they may be a bit too hot to handle for the majority of the world.
Whether interested in the items themselves or just outrageous industrial design, the MIT Museum’s Shoe Obsession exhibition is a must see, running from February 8th to April 13th.