Sunday, 19 July 2015

Pain and Pleasure

As Kathryn Hughes says in her review in the Guardian: "...many of the shoes in this exhibition manage to be both legitimate and wayward, serious and slutty at the same time."

From ancient Egyptian stilt-shoes through Baroque masterpieces of extreme ornamentation and "Arabian Nights-style" foot-long pointy-toes, to Victorian buttoned "streetwalker" boots, Disco platforms, Manolo Blahnik/Christian Louboutin stilettos and modern cantilevered monstrosities, the exhibition Shoes: Pleasure and Pain that we went to see at the V&A yesterday had them all. Shoes worn by Marilyn Monroe, GaGa, Daphne Guinness, Naomi Campbell, Kylie and Imelda Marcos, shoes for royalty and shoes from Hollywood movies (including Moira Shearer's doomed ballet pumps from The Red Shoes, of course) - footwear in its endless variety was here.

This is an exhibition about obsession more than practicality, of course, and some of the items on display were remarkably beautiful and desirable, as one might expect. Others, such as the tiny Chinese "bound-feet" slippers, were simply horrifying. Displays of components (such as wildly beautiful heels), designs and private collections amassed over decades were as revealing as the shoes themselves.

And, judging by the crowds of people attending, pointing and gasping at the items on display - men as much as women - the obsession is still very much alive...

Shoes: Pleasure and Pain is on at the Victora & Albert Museum until 31st January 2016.


  1. OMG!!!! How a would love to see this!!!!! Thank you for posting this Jon. When I did drag, if the heel didn't hurt, it wasn't tall enough for me. But on the plus side, from all those years, my legs look nice and built. Friends of mine who work on building there legs, I tell them screw the gym, just wear high heels, you'll soon get results. And what gal doesn't love a good pair of fuck me pumps?


    1. I knew you would love it - and apparently the V&A is planning to take the exhibition "on the road" Stateside and to Australia when it closes next year (their "Golden Age of Couture" was staged in Nashville in 2010, "The Art of Lee Miller" went to San Francisco in 2008, and "The Cult of Beauty" to Virginia in 2012, not to mention the magnificent "David Bowie Is" mega-showcase in Chicago last year). There were plenty of "fuck me pumps" on show to drool over... Jx


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