This June, the V&A will explore the history of extreme footwear in Shoes: Pleasure and Pain. With a collection of well over 2,000 pairs of shoes spanning across 3,000 years from around the world, the curators have selected pieces that examine our enduring fascination with the transformative power of shoes. “Shoes are one of the most telling aspects of dress,” commented curator Helen Persson. “Beautiful, sculptural objects, they are also powerful indicators of gender, status, identity, taste and even sexual preference. Our choice in shoes can help project an image of who we want to be.”

From the festishitic to the sublime, the dispaly includes gold leaf sandals originating from ancient Egypt to futuristic shoes created using 3D printing. Elsewhere, you’ll find 16th-century platforms, lotus shoes made for bound feet, bondage boots and culturally significant items such as Vivienne Westwood’s infamous blue platforms worn by Naomi Campbell in 1993.    


Shoes: Pleasure and Pain will run from the 13th of June 2015 until the 31st of January 2016.

Text by Nazanin Shahnavaz  

Image Credits: 

1. Naomi Campbell falls in Vivienne Westwood heels in Paris 1993

2. ‘InvisibleNakedVersion’ by Andreia Chaves 2011, Photo by Andrew Bradley

3. Wedding toe-knob paduka, silver and gold over wood India, 1800s V&A: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

4. ‘Parakeet’ shoes, by Caroline Groves (1959). Photograph: Dan Lowe/V&A Images