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Antique Week On Collecting Shoes

By , 11 March, 2009, No Comment

Antique Week literally covers shoes this week with a front page article by Christie Garland, These shoes were made for collecting, in which Garland discusses the history & collectibility of the shoe.

Antique Week Shoe Article

Antique Week Shoe Article

Gently chiding the Carrie Bradshaw-esqe shoe lovers and “well-heeled socialites” who imagine they are the first (or best) to love the shoe, Garland writes:

What our fashionable frau probably doesn’t realize is that she isn’t really a trendsetter. We need only go back into history to make our case: beginning in the 1860s, “Girl of the Period” became a catchphrase signifying a woman whose enslavement to fashion preempted all else – even common sense.

I especially loved walking about in in the historical footnotes:

But the War years brought with them a shortage of leather, the necessary introduction of cloth-topped shoes and boots, and black mourning footwear. The end of the War brought the Victory Pump, a long slender shoe with a long Colonial tongue and a Louis heel (a fluted heel that flares at the bottom), and shoes in a patriotic color known as gunmetal gray.

It didn’t take long, however, for shoes to revert back to their former fashionable status. In the 1920s, as footwear became visible beneath short dresses, heels were at least 2 inches high, and shoe styles included the Mary Jane (a round-toed ankle strap button shoe), gold and silver kid Charleston ’sandals,’ T-bar shoes with buckles and bows, and sequin or diamante trims.

Great descriptions of the shoes! But it’s the context, both in terms of economics and popular culture, which really helps me ‘see’ the love affair with shoes:

One would surmise that the Depression years brought another dearth in shoe styles, but surprisingly, that wasn’t the case. For the lady of the house, a vast variety of rounded toes, peek-a-boo toes (showing toe ’cleavage’) pumps, flats, ankle straps, slip-ons, lace-ups, buckled, spectator, two-tones, baby doll ankle boots, and sandals emerged. Men also demonstrated that they were no stranger to the power of celebrity: two-toned brogues, the favorite style of Fred Astaire, became all the rage, as did the wing-tip Oxford, worn by the likes of Clark Gable and Errol Flynn.

As was the case with the World War I, World War II brought with it government restrictions on leather, and the embellishment of fashion items. Heels were lowered, buckles and lacings were exchanged with elasticized gores and vamps, and leather was replaced with alternatives that included reptile skin and faux frog-skin.

Nevertheless, we have World War II and innovations in steel technology to thank for the stiletto heel. Until the 1940s, in order to support a woman’s weight, heels had to be short and narrow or high and thick. Once manufacturers were able to extrude thin steel rods, the stiletto heel was inevitable. Following the war, stiletto heels became a fashion must, remaining in vogue throughout the 1950s as movie stars like Marilyn Monroe modeled their virtues.

While older women may have held onto their stilettos into the next decade, the 1960s reflected an emerging youth, and their rampant experimentation with vibrant colors, exotic textures and shapes – even space-age style. But the 1960s may best be remembered as a decade of the sexy boot – from Nancy Sinatra’s shiny white go-go boots featured in These Boots are Made for Walking to those vampy black boots donned by a leather-clad Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) in The Avengers.

Fast forward through the 1970s, 80s, 90s, and beyond, and you’ll discover designers that have incorporated the best – and sometimes the worst – of shoe history. Platform shoes, for example, first appeared on the runways and pages of Europe in 1936, but they didn’t catch on in North American until 1941. They resurfaced in the early 1970s, and more recently in the mid-1990s as a statement of “Girl Power” with performers like the Spice Girls. It’s just a matter of time until they resurface once again – right alongside thigh high, shiny black leather boots and stiletto heels.

However, Garland subscribes to that horrible old adage, “If you were old enough to wear it (fashionably) the first time around, you’re probably too old to wear it now.” Ugh. I hate that saying. With fashion flashbacks cycling every 20 years or so, that’s like saying you die fashion death at 40. (I could go on and on about this, but it really should be for another time/post.)

But I really enjoyed the rest of the read.

Collecting Shoes Article Page 35

Collecting Shoes Article Page 35

The author also recommends the following shoe museums/URLs — unfortunately, Antique Week doesn’t link them, but I do! *wink*

The Wenham Museum, 132 Main Street, Wenham, MA 01984 Tel: (978) 468-2377

The Bata Shoe Museum, 327 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1W7 Tel: (416) 979-7799

The Shoe Collection, Northampton Museums, Guildhall Road, Northampton NN1 1DP Email: museums@northampton.gov.uk

I also found this official page on the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery and this article on the Followers of Fashion, the permanent shoe gallery at Northampton Museum and Art Gallery.

Conclusion Of Shoe Article

Conclusion Of Shoe Article

Perhaps the most surprising thing I read though, was this “Did you know?” part which didn’t make the website:

There’s an ancient superstition that hiding shoes in a house as it was being built would ward off evil. Hundreds of these concealed shoes have been found in buildings in Europe and the Eastern United States.

Has anyone every heard of this? Are they found in single, or in pairs? Have you ever found any — and if so, may I have them? *wink*

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