So apparently one pair of shoes can change your life, well according to Cinderella. I understand that footwear can provoke intense feelings of desire and lust, we all have those killer heels on our wish-list, but can a pair of shoes really change your life? Well, the V&A’s latest fashion exhibition, ‘Shoes: Pleasure and Pain’, is much more than just showcasing gorgeous heels, it delves into the transformation power of extreme footwear, as well as exploring the agonising aspect and euphoria of wearing shoes.
There is a lot to see, more than 250 pairs of shoes are on display across two floors, with some spanning from as early as 30BC, a delicate gold leaf decorated a pair of sandals discovered in Egypt, to those Jimmy Choo feathered beauties that Carrie lost in Sex and the City.
Of course, no exhibition now is content with just featuring historical or pretty, there has to be that celebrity touch to make it special, and the exhibition does feature styles worn by the likes of Marilyn Monroe, which might actually surprise a few people as they are flats, as well as Lady Gaga, Naomi Campbell, Kylie Minogue and there is even a pair of football boots belonging to David Beckham.
The exhibition is vast, there really is a lot to see, sometimes more than 20 pairs stuffed into a display cabinet, and I think the amount of shoes is what made it a little underwhelming, as I felt that there was so much I couldn’t take in the concept of the exhibition, which isn’t actually fashion-based, yeah the footwear is pretty, but it is about how footwear can help project an image of who we want to be, can showcase status, as well as represent an expression of sexual empowerment.
For me, and this was even during the press preview, as everything is packed into big displays it got so crowded, that I couldn’t read all the descriptions, some of which were ridiculously small, and the mood lighting downstairs left me feeling less like I was in a boudoir but rather that I needed a flash light to see the displays. Part of me wishes that they had made more use of the space on the upper floor, where the light is so beautiful, but again the layout was so uninspiring.
There are four elements to this exhibition, displaying pretty heels, flats and trainers from the likes of Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik and Adidas, to historical pieces, which for me were the most interesting aspect, to the background on how shoes are made, another interesting but small feature, and then finishing off the exhibition is how shoes are commodities and collectibles with six collections presented from historical to designer, as well as Katie who loves the high street and a sneaker head who has an amazing collection of trainers.
If you love shoes, you will probably love this exhibition as there are some gorgeous pieces on display, but I wonder whether the £12 admission price is worth it as you would probably find a free wander around Selfridges shoe hall more appealing. There are a few highlights, though – it was cute seeing the Cinderella glass slipper, I was obsessed with how tiny the shoes from Asia were, and I loved seeing the designer sketches of the shoes, but I did feel as though there wasn’t much new here on display.