Shoe Obsession at the FIT Museum

Posted by on Mar 5, 2013 in Global View | No Comments

Shoe Obsession Exhibition FIT Museum-680

Shoes become Objects of Art at FIT

Ingrid Mida reviews the ‘Shoe Obsession’ exhibition at the FIT Museum in New-York city.

Shoe Obsession Exhibition FIT Museum-002In the documentary film “God Save my Shoes”, shoe designer Christian Louboutin said: “For me, a high heel can never be too high”. Over the past decade, designers like Louboutin have taken high heels to new extremes, pushing the boundaries of design and functionality.

In the exhibition Shoe Obsession at FIT Museum in New York City, curators Valerie Steele and Colleen Hill present 150 examples of the most extraordinary women’s footwear of the recent past. This display highlights innovations in design, construction and embellishment by an array of designers, including Manolo Blahnik, Tom Ford, Pierre Hardy, Christian Louboutin, Alexander McQueen, and Roger Vivier, many of whom loaned shoes for the exhibition.

Single shoes (only one from each pair) are displayed like works of art in glass vitrines, with the darkened room heightening the gallery-like effect. These extravagant shoes are not made for walking; these are objects of beauty that just happen to be shaped as “an intimate extension of the body”. Many of the shoes on exhibit seem utterly un-wearable with towering heels of six inches or more.

Some, especially those by Noritaka Tatehana like the Lady Pointe 2012 designed for Lady Gaga, are more decorative than functional reaching towering heights that are reminiscent of Chopines worn by women in Renaissance Italy in the 16th century.

The text within the exhibition is limited to a listing of shoe designers, and does not present an opinion on the reasons why women are obsessed with shoes. Nor does it answer the reason why towering stilettos have become contemporary symbols of femininity, expressing pleasure and pain, sensuality and seduction, as well as effectively hobbling women’s gait and impeding their mobility.

Shoe Obsession Exhibition FIT Museum-001

The exhibition booklet suggests that the reasons for our current shoe obsession “has less to do with psycho-sexual symbolism than with developments in the world of fashion” and that shoes have simply “become the main fashion story, replacing the ‘It bag’ as the most desirable accessory”.  I am not sure I agree with this analysis since the reasons why shoes have become the focus of obsession for many women is likely the result of a complex conflation of factors, but that matters little if you love shoes. The Shoe Obsession exhibition at FIT presents some of the most beautiful shoes as art objects that I have ever seen.

Shoe Obsession: February 8 to April 13, 2013
FIT Museum, New York City
Exhibition Catalogue

Read on Ingrid Mida two parts review of On a Pedestal, a 2010 exhibit at the Bata Shoe Museum of Toronto and find out more about Chopines.


Written by Ingrid Mida

Ingrid Mida

Ingrid Mida is the Collection Co-ordinator of the Fashion Research Centre at the Ryerson University School of Fashion where she is responsible for the curatorial and management duties related to the research collection. As well, she is a freelance fashion writer, focusing on fashion in the museum. Since 2008, she has written a scholarly blog called Fashion is my Muse, where she also explores the intersection of fashion with art, history, books, creativity, theory and life. As well, Ingrid works as a freelance artist and curator, creating artwork and installations related to fashion, and has had her photographs and illustrations included in several newspapers and magazines. Ingrid is currently working on a book for Bloomsbury Fashion called “The Dress Detective: The Practical Guide to Object-based research in Fashion” for release in Fall 2015.

Ingrid Mida
Ryerson University School of Fashion
350 Victoria Street
Toronto, Ontario M5B 2K3