Shoes: Pleasure and Pain at the V&A

Invisible Naked Version by Andreia Chaves 2011. Photo by Andrew Bradley

Shoes – and feet – have long been fetishized but few people have done as much to make heels as swooned over and desired as Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City – the New Yorker’s Manolo addiction was almost as big a part of the storylines as her equally obsessive relationship with Mr Big. And SJP features in a lovely montage the V&A has put together for its summer fashion blockbuster, Shoes: Pleasure and Pain. From the moment you enter the darkened ground floor where lit display cases are enrobed in plush purple velvet you feel instantly seduced. And the show highlights how shoes – long before Louboutin – were all about sex, seduction, status, power, desire. The show isn’t chronological but thematic, so a pair of totally OTT gold platforms from Lady GaGa appears alongside a Qing dynasty pair of satin boots with a 7cm flatform, illustrating how Chinese noblemen were way ahead of the curve when it comes to footwear trends. There’s every shoe imaginable in this show – crazed 70s platforms (and more desirable Biba ones), dainty Nineteenth century satin slippers that make it instantly apparent why Jane Austen heroines are generally incapable of walking any distances. There are exquisite slippers belonging to Queen Victoria and even daintier silk shoes worn by foot-bound Chinese women – apparently the Lotus foot – the most desirable of bound feet was just 7.5cm long. And there are all the requisite fashion heels to drool over too – Prada, Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo and more. Our favourite bit of the show is upstairs where the museum investigates the craft behind making a pair of shoes and interviews key designers on their working process. There are some great talks during the show’s run too – Sandra Choi, Bruno Frisoni, Charlotte Dellal and the fabulous Manolo Blahnik on 6th November who is just brilliant and frank in conversation and not to be missed.

Shoes: Pleasure and Pain at the V&A
13 June - 31 January 2016
Victoria & Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL
0800 912 6961
— Clare
10th June 2015