Museum as shoe­seum: What our footwear says about our souls

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS in Salem, Mass.

Boots aren’t just made for walk­ing. On the con­trary, footwear has cap­ti­vated hearts and minds world­wide for cen­turies.

Whether a pair of crys­talline em­bel­lished slip­pers, or thigh-high boots with plat­form heels, shoes show our per­son­al­i­ties, moods and so­cial sta­tus.

That’s the premise be­hind Shoes: Plea­sure and Pain, an ex­hi­bi­tion open­ing last Satur­day at the Pe­abody Es­sexMu­seum in Salem, Mas­sachusetts, ex­am­in­ing the his­tory and cul­tural rel­e­vance of what we strap to our soles.

“We’re all born with bare feet and shoes fa­cil­i­tate our move­ment, but shoes also re­veal our iden­tity,” says Lynda Roscoe Har­ti­gan, co­or­di­nat­ing cu­ra­tor for the ex­hi­bi­tion.

Theshow, or­ga­nized­bytheLon­don­based Vic­to­ria and Al­bertMu­seum, is com­prised of boots, slip­pers, pumps, loafers and san­dals from around the world dat­ing to the 17th cen­tury. From left:

A red stiletto shaped cus­tom car is dis­played at the en­trance of the Pe­abody Es­sex Museum; “The Gold Dig­ger” by de­signer Se­bas­tian Er­razuriz, fea­tur­ing a fig­ure hold­ing up the up­per por­tion; El­ton John’s rain­bow glass em­bossed plat­form boots, de­signed by Bill Whit­ten in the 1970s,

Through our shoes, Roscoe Har­ti­gan said, we all project “cer­tain as­pects of power and author­ity” — even if those mes­sages are sub­lim­i­nal.

One clas­sic ex­am­ple of af­flu­ence and power wrapped into a shoe is the high heel. Yet, func­tion­al­ity and com­fort are of­ten over­looked in their de­sign.

In1993, su­per­mod­elNaomiCamp­bell made head­lines when she stum­bled on a Paris run­way dur­ing Fash­ion Week. The Vivi­enne West­wood plat­forms Camp­bell was wear­ing — a pair of cobalt blue, mock crocodile skin shoes with 9-inch heels — be­came icons overnight. They’re now part of the Salem show.

Also on dis­play are sev­eral pairs from high-end re­tail­ers such as Jimmy Choo, Chris­tian Louboutin andManolo Blah­nik, made fa­mous by the HBO series Sex and the City. One pair of men’s golf shoes by Prada is covered in brightly col­ored rhine­stones.

“You would never as­sume they’re some­thing men would play golf in,” RoscoeHar­ti­gan says.

But this ex­hi­bi­tion is more than just a dis­play of exclusive footwear. There are shoes used for foot bind­ing, an an­cient Chi­nese cus­tom in which a girl’s four toes were tucked beneath the foot in an ef­fort to pre­vent growth. One pair of silk, cot­ton and me­tal-wrapped lo­tus shoes is just 4 inches long.

Un­til the 1600s, shoes were made to fit an in­di­vid­ual— a process that could in­volve up to 200 stages of con­struc­tion. By mid­cen­tury, Europe’s mid­dle class pop­u­la­tion ex­ploded and ready-to-wear

Lynda Roscoe Har­ti­gan,

co­or­di­nat­ing cu­ra­tor for the ex­hi­bi­tion, at the Pe­abody Es­sex Museum in Salem, Mas­sachusetts

Shoes:Plea­sure shoes be­came avail­able.

On dis­play are shoe lasts — wood or plas­tic forms used by shoe­mak­ers — fromthe latePrincess Diana, Charlie Chap­lin and other celebri­ties.

“The whole thing is pretty amaz­ing,” says Faith Krei­der, of New­ton, Mas­sachusetts, who viewed the ex­hi­bi­tion. “There’s a wide va­ri­ety of footwear down through the ages.”

PHO­TOS BY CHARLES KRUPA / AP

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