Shoes: Pleasure & Pain at the V&A


I did not have three thousand pairs of shoes.  I had one thousand and sixty.

-Imelda Marcos

I have always been envious of my mother’s ability to walk into a shoe shop armed with the knowledge there would be a pair in the store that might very well be perfect for her.

Sadly, like Jack’s beanstalk, my feet grew and grew until I stopped being shown the cinderella section of the shop in favour for the clunky men’s designs.  That was until I discovered a few online stores that catered for my size 9s and as my credit card burned hot with overuse my love of shoes was reborn.

I had such high hopes for this exhibition but in spite of the beautiful craftsmanship on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum I left feeling pretty flat.  I booked a time slot to view the exhibition but when I arrived there seemed to be so many people buying tickets on the door that we were crammed in and had to snake our way around the ground floor of the exhibition in one enormous queue.

Each display is jam packed full of shoes which really are quite spectacular but there is rarely a story behind them that they are just shoes.  For example, there’s a fleeting reference to one Mrs Anderson who wore her pink boudoir slippers outside her bedroom – a risqué move at the time – but there is no explanation of who Mrs Anderson was so it seems odd to reference her as though visitors ought to know who she was.

The upper floor of the exhibition was relatively empty so if you do decide to visit and it seems busy on the ground floor head upstairs where you can learn a little about the evolution of shoemaking.  There are a number of displays on this floor of people’s shoe collections.  One is the collection of a man named Robert, if memory serves me correctly.  He has amassed a collection of triple stripe adidas trainers.  Yet, other than this information, we have no idea who Robert is or why his collection of shoes has been chosen to include in the exhibition.

The highlight of the exhibition is a short film featuring a series of shoemakers and designers such as Manolo Blahnik, Caroline Groves and Christian Louboutin.  I found it really fascinating to listen to them – Blahnik is all charisma- I warmed to him immediately- while Groves is much more modest but a delight to listen to as she explains her craft.

Overall I found this exhibition more hype than substance.  Closing on Saturday there are just a few more days to catch the show before it disappears.  If money’s tight try checking out the V&A’s YouTube channel which features videos detailing the process of shoemaking – a far more informative insight into the process than the show itself and it also includes the video with the designers and makers I mentioned earlier.  I’ve included it in this post below as well.

Until next time,

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