Shoes: Pleasure and Pain Exhibition Review

I love shoes, always have and always will.

I don’t know what it is about shoes that I love so much, it might be from watching my Nan dancing when I was younger, or maybe sneaking into her bedroom and trying on her shoes when we went to visit. Either way, one of my favourite memories is sharing glee with my Nan, at fashion and shoes in-particular.

When I saw that the V&A were hosting an exhibition on shoes, you can imagine how excited I was and indeed visited as soon as I could.

Shoes: Pleasure and Pain, is an exhibition for shoe lovers, and those interested in shoe design or manufacture. I think it was a fantastic exhibition, with a wide variety and a few infamous styles or indeed shoes. The top floor had to be my favourite part, as it replicated many thoughts and feelings I have about shoes, especially in the Design Stories from Manolo Blahnik.

Even before you entered the exhibition, you could peek inside and see a short video clip of a lady walking, with the synonymous sound of heels against stone floor. There were a variety of shoes, from all walks of life, elegantly displayed atop boxes, replicating the packaging in which we receive them. (I would show you pictures, but we were not allowed to take any). As you walked around the bottom floor you were able to see how shoes are not just something to protect our feet from the dirt below, but that they subtly change the attitude towards who we are; status, wealth, sexuality all featured as defining influences. The top floor showed the process of manufacture in stages and how the design of modern shoes is still being developed. It was exciting to see, close up, some of my most favourite modern shoe designs. Around the exhibition were quotes and comments relating to shoes, but my favourite quote had to be from Imelda Marcos, “I did not have three thousand pairs of shoes, I had one thousand and sixty.”. As I have often had to defend my comparatively minuscule collection of shoes.

Overall I think this exhibition is well worth a visit, even if you aren’t interested in shoe design it’s fascinating to see and understand some of the historical influences shoes have both taken on and encouraged.


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