News / Arts & Entertainment

    New York Fashion Museum Shows its 'Shoe Obsession'

    • Rupert Sanderson (Museum at FIT)
    • Chanel 2009
    • Masayo Kushino (Museum at FIT)
    • Janine Alleyne (Alleyne)
    • Maison Martin Margiela
    • Tea Petrovic (Petrovic)
    • Chanel Resort 2009 (Museum at FIT)
    • Manolo Blahnik (Museum at FIT)
    • Nortaka Tatehana
    • Roger Vivier (Museum at FIT)
    • Giuseppe Zanotti (Museum at FIT)
    Carolyn Weaver
    "Shoes occupy a very special place in the female imagination," says Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York.

    The museum’s current show, "Shoe Obsession," presents some of the most extreme examples of those objects of desire: fantastically wrought sky-high heels by leading designers, with prices equally unreachable. 

    Beautifully-made, imaginatively-designed high heels can confer upon the wearer an Olympian sense of power, beauty, and status, Steele says.

    "Handbags have some of that aspect, but shoes are so much more playful than that," she says. "Many women I have talked to say the shoes talk to them. They say, 'buy me, take me home.’ And unlike clothing, shoes have a shape, they are sculptural, and some women said they almost didn’t care whether they would be wearing the shoes much. They said, ‘I can put it on my coffee table and just admire it.’ I think for a lot of women, there’s something about shoes, they’re like little miniature works of art."
     
    Prada Spring 2008Prada Spring 2008
    x
    Prada Spring 2008
    Prada Spring 2008
    With examples both from established design houses like Prada and Chanel, and rising young designers from Europe, the U.S. and Japan, the FIT museum show is about the increased popularity of luxury designer shoes, highlighted by the television show, "Sex and the City."

    "Over the past 10 years, more and more women have become interested in high-end designer shoes, so something that a decade ago was only the province of a real sort of shoe addicts, as in ‘Sex and the City,’ now has become democratized," Steele says. 

    Christian Louboutin (Museum at FIT)Christian Louboutin (Museum at FIT)
    x
    Christian Louboutin (Museum at FIT)
    Christian Louboutin (Museum at FIT)
    "And everyone knows Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin and a host of other designers. So, in this show, we look at the 21st century phenomenon of shoe obsession, and explore how it is that shoes have moved from being accessories to being the main fashion story."

    Steele says that although women of all classes are wearing very high heels, many keep them in reserve most of the time. 

    "Most women are not running down the street in five-inch heels," she says. "They might have a pair in their office that they switch into before a meeting when they want to have an extra shot of confidence."

    Even in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries, she says, where women's dress is required to be modest, the interest in shoes is no less. 

    "It's just that you don't see it in public. The context of showing off your fashion is in private, in all-women gatherings," Steele says.

    History of the Heel

    Heeled shoes may have been invented by ancient horsemen in the Near East, says Elizabeth Semmelhack, curator at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, Canada.  A heel helped riders keep their feet in the stirrups. The style was adopted in the 1590s by European men, and then by women.

    "There’s the famous portrait of Louis the 14th, the king of France, wearing high-heeled shoes with red heels," says Steele. "However, it seems that even from the beginning men’s heels were somewhat thicker than women’s. Women’s were more curved and delicate-looking.  And as time went on, women’s heels became taller than men’s heels. And then by the later part of the 18th century, men pretty much stopped wearing high heels, and it became exclusively a feminine fashion."

    In the late 18th century, according to the book, "Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty," by Nancy Etcoff, England’s parliament passed a law requiring the same punishment for female adornment as for witchcraft. Among the forbidden provocations were paints, scents, artificial teeth, false hair, bolstered hips -- and high-heeled shoes.

    "The law was unenforceable," Etcoff writes.  But for the next few centuries, heels had to remain somewhat chunky.  It took new technologies in plastic and steel production in the early 1950s to make possible the stiletto heel, a long, extremely slender spike.

    On Display

    The most fanciful of the shoes in the FIT museum show look like theater props.

    One display consists of golden tie-up sandals supported by figurines of laboring, crouching men. They were designed by Rupert Sanderson for a production of Verdi’s Aida, whose protagonist is a slave in ancient Egypt. Japanese designer Masaya Kushino’s "Wind Horse" shoes have a wooden ball-like platform and a trailing golden ponytail. Shoes designed by Janina Alleyne evoke insect exoskeletons, while Tea Petrovic’s prototypes resemble space-age architecture.

    ​Another design, by Maison Martin Margiela, is literally unwearable. In a reference to the Cinderella story, they are high-heeled slippers made of glass. 

    Shoe by Noritaka TatehanaShoe by Noritaka Tatehana
    x
    Shoe by Noritaka Tatehana
    Shoe by Noritaka Tatehana
    Some of the shoes look like weapons. A sharp horn like a rhinoceros’s protrudes from the top of a hoof-like Noritaka Tatehana design. A Chanel high heel is made in the form of a downward-pointing pistol.

    The sheer difficulty and sometimes painfulness of these designs is part of the challenge: only physically superior beings exercising a powerful will can manage to stand and walk in these shoes.  And only the wealthiest can afford to spend thousands on collections of shoes that are impractical for more than brief display.

    Ultra-high shoes that lack any heels at all are a recent innovation that have been taken up enthusiastically by those few.  The wearer balances on the ball of her foot, always pitching forward slightly, like a long-legged bird.

    Valerie Steele said she exercised her legs and feet for weeks before wearing a pair to the FIT museum show’s opening reception.

    She lasted half an hour in them.

    You May Like

    Multimedia Obama Calls on Americans to Help the Families of Its War Dead

    In last Memorial Day of his presidency, Obama lays wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Valery Alendeev from: Russia, Yekaterinburg
    March 04, 2013 1:25 AM
    Women heeled shoes may have come to Near East and Europe from the temples of South India.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    New in Music Alley

    Take It From The Top: Stanley Jordani
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    May 17, 2016 5:01 PM
    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously. He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously.  He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

     

     

     

     

    Blogs

    African Music Treasures