A Personal Collection of Vivienne Westwood Shoes at York Castle Museum
- Credit: Archant
York Castle Museum makes great strides with a new exhibition of Vivienne Westwood shoes.
Shoes can be a source of both pleasure and pain. The pleasure comes from their beauty and breathless desirability, and the pain can be literal (quart in a pint pot anyone?), financial or bordering on the metaphysical when it dawns on you that the pair you crave are never going to be yours.
Few of us have not had a Carrie Bradshaw moment when it comes to shoes; that ‘must have, must have’ mantra running through our heads as we run down the high street towards the heels of our dreams.
The Sex and the City fashionista, played with fleet-footed panache by Sarah Jessica Parker, made it OK to love shoes, to beg, borrow or steal for a Manolo Blahnik, to go completely cuckoo over a Jimmy Choo and to spend $40,000 on shoes instead of a down-payment on an apartment (complete with a wardrobe to put all your gosh-darn gorgeous shoes in).
When Big finally – finally! – proposes to Carrie, he doesn’t get down on bended knee to put a ring on her finger, he gets down on bended knee to put a shoe on her foot. And not just any shoe; a blue satin, brooch-bejewelled Hangisi Manolo Blahnik pump.
According to Vogue, these life-changing pumps (love that word – in a purely platonic Miranda Hart way) are among the most iconic shoes of all time. Others that make the cut are Alexander McQueen’s Armadillo shoe, a 12in claw-like design that Daphne Guinness said was ‘actually very light and comfortable’; Audrey Hepburn’s ballet flats, a shoe first conceived in the 16th century and given a new lease of life in Funny Face in 1957 when the elfin actress teamed them with slim, cropped trousers and beautiful eyes the size of dinner plates; and Cinderella’s glass slipper, reinterpreted by Christian Louboutin as the quintessential happily-ever-after shoe.
Not one but two of Vivienne Westwood’s designs get honourable mention on the list: her 1981 Pirate boot, which actually didn’t reach its zenith until 1999 when Kate Moss bought a vintage pair in Notting Hill and sparked a spear-like spike in demand; and her Gillie platforms, a nine-inch, purple mock-croc tower that even supermodels can’t walk in without a safety net.
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Both are now on show at York Castle Museum in A Personal Collection of Vivienne Westwood Shoes chosen by the designer herself.
Curated to highlight the beauty, innovation and artistry of the cutting-edge footwear created by this pioneering British fashion designer, the exhibition, which runs until next April, shows Westwood’s changing aesthetic over a period of three decades, as well as the clear influence of both street culture and traditional cordwainers’ methods.
Visitors are now being invited to take a walk on the wild side with her punk fashion from the 1970s and 1980s, including the Seditionaries boots favoured by The Sex Pistols, her controversial (as if she ever does anything that isn’t) Three-strap Prostitute shoe and her infamous ‘super-elevated’ heels of the 1990s (yes, including that one that caused Naomi Campbell to come a cropper on the Paris catwalk).
To compliment her own personal collection, Dame Vivienne has also selected shoes from the museum’s own historic fashion archive. Ranging from the 18th century to the present day, she has included a pair of handmade Georgian satin shoes, Edwardian boots designed by François Pinet and a pair of Christian Dior shoes designed by Roger Vivier, creator of the stiletto heel.
A Personal Collection of Vivienne Westwood Shoes is on at York Castle Museum until April 28th 2019. The exhibition is open daily from 9.30am-5pm. Admission is £11 for adults, children free with at least one paying adult. For details, visit yorkcastlemuseum.org.uk