|Bata Shoe Museum|
327 Bloor Street West
On Tuesday April 30th, I volunteered for a
alumni event at the .
The highlight of the night was Professor Kelly Olson’s lecture entitled Sex
and Shoes. As a Western alumnus (twice) I often get emails inviting me
to events that I usually delete; however, with a title like that I paused and
read the email and knew I wanted to go. Bata
The women arrived donning fabulous footwear. And the men came accompanying the women. After a tour of the museum and drinks the lecture began. The chairs were filled as everyone took a seat with a little sigh of relief from their feet – the consequence of our footwear choices. However, we were soon to find out that our decision of style over comfort is something that many women throughout history share.
Professor Olson notes that the history of footwear can be seen and understood from several viewpoints; such as economic and social. The seminar focused on footwear as a “social erotic object” for wearer and observer.
With the title being Sex and Shoes you can probably guess that the lecture focused on the history of the high heel –your Uggs for Weldon didn’t make the list. The wedge shoe goes back to ancient
There are images of the Greek goddess Aphrodite wearing platform shoes from the
7th century BCE. Also, ancient Greek actors wore wedge shoes so they
could be better seen by the audience. Greece
During the Italian Renaissance platform shoes became popular among wealthy women. Wealthy women wore chopines to make them appear taller and to suit the style of skirts. Yet, chopines were originally part of lower class fashions. In 14th century
, prostitutes had
to wear chopines and nuns were forbidden from wearing them. Clearly marking the
early stages of the association of heeled shoes as an object symbolizing lust.
Chopines became popular among the Italian aristocracy for economic reasons.
Primarily because chopines made skirts much longer, this meant that one had to
be rich in order to afford the additional cloth needed for the length. Secondly,
the impracticality of chopines required the women wearing them to be surrounded
by servants to lean against, further adding to them as indicators of
wealth. Chopines lost popularity to the
stack heel. Florence
|King Louis XIV in red heels|
One remark I found greatly interesting was the fact that Historians do not know where the heel originated from. Nonetheless, by 1650 both men and women wore stack heels. King Louis XIV wore red heels, and only those a part of the French court were allowed to wear red heels. (Christian Louboutin exhibit coming to the Design Exchange this summer, I plan on learning if this is where he got the idea from.)
|Pointed heel = sharpened fantasies|
Throughout the 19th century young women used heels to define themselves against previous generations by adopting the footwear associated with prostitutes. A major trend in the 19th century was the continuous thinning of the heel, leading to the creation of the stiletto in the late 1940s. An interesting point was the correlation between the steel industry and the stiletto. A steel heel was needed to support the longer and thinner heel. From the 1980s to present times, heels have a place as an erotic symbol due to their current status as a part of lingerie.
The high heel seems to be a lasting fashion staple for women representing femininity and sexual desire. A common material object, that has created a not so simple mark on women’s history.
Some photos from the Bata Shoe Museum exhibit.