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Fabulously Fierce Countdown | Curator Picks Go Toe-to-Toe For the #1 Spot

Written by Ann Glasscock, assistant curator

Curious what my favorite shoes are in our upcoming exhibition Walk This Way | Footwear from the Stuart Weitzman Collection of Historic Shoes? Here’s your chance to find out! Plus, you can learn a bit about what makes each pair special. We all know that objects tell stories, and, according to Stuart Weitzman, shoes in particular “tell an almost infinite number of stories.” So, without further ado, here are my top ten!

#10  Open-toe Mules, about 1950s
Leather, plexiglass, rhinestones, and elastic Spring-o-lator

These shoes belonged to none other than Hollywood icon Ginger Rogers, the Oscar-winning film star and Fred Astaire’s partner in Depression-era romantic musicals.

 

#9 Boudoir Shoes, 1867
Paris, France
Silk, embroidery, and metallic thread

These rare shoes were created for the 1867 Paris Universal Exposition. Although this World’s Fair focused on industrial production, a skilled artisan made and embroidered this pair by hand, incorporating Turkish-style goldwork embroidery.

 

#8 Gregg Barnes (born 1956), designer
T. O. Dey (founded 1926), maker
Kinky Boots, about 2013
New York, New York
Patent metallic leathers, rubber, fabric, and metal
New-York Historical Society, Gift of Kinky Boots, 2017.6ab

Kevin Smith Kirkwood wore this fabulously fierce pair of red boots when he performed in the hit Broadway musical Kinky Boots from 2013 to 2016. The show is based on the true story of a young Englishman who inherits his family’s failing shoe factory. He saves the business by producing high-heeled footwear in men’s sizes, all with the help of Lola, the drag queen at the heart of the story.

#7 T-strap Evening Sandals, about 1940s
Leather, silk, and rhinestones

Biblically themed Hollywood films of the 1940s, like Samson and Delilah (1949), inspired a fashion for gold and silver sandals. Almost immediately, designers throughout the country were making shoes like these bejeweled evening sandals that twinkled on dance floors.

 

#6 Seymour Weitzman (1910–1965), designer
Pointed-toe Slingback Shoes, about 1964
Haverhill, Massachusetts 
Leather and net

With their open sides and extremely pointed toes, these shoes are sleek and almost futuristic, reflecting the 1960s fascination with outer space and the race to the Moon.

 

#5 The Chelsea Cobbler (founded 1967), maker
Peep-toe Platform Shoes, about 1972
London, England
Suede

During the late 1960s and early ‘70s, the emerging youth culture popularized antiwar slogans such as “Make Love, Not War” and “Flower Power.” Flowers decorated everything from vehicles to footwear, like these peep-toe platform shoes with extremely high heels.

 

#4 Delman Shoes (founded 1919), maker
Peep-toe Evening Shoes, about 1935
New York, New York
Leather, mesh net, and rhinestone buckles

Fashion aficionados know Delman shoes for their eye-catching designs. Spider webs, symbolizing creativity and, often, entanglement, decorate the surface of these evening shoes. Perhaps the woman who wore these hoped, like a spider, to “catch” the right man.

 

#3 Spectator Pumps Signed by the Yankees, about 1941
Leather and suede

These historic shoes were signed by 27 members of the 1941 New York Yankees, transforming a pair of everyday pumps into a one-of-a-kind piece of baseball memorabilia.

 

#2 Babers Ltd., maker
D’Orsay Evening Shoes, about 1928
Jersey, United Kingdom
Silk brocade, kid leather, rhinestones, and beads

These exquisite Art Deco evening shoes by Baber Limited were manufactured in Jersey—a small island located between England and France—but sold in London and other cities. A woman may have spotted this pair, studded with rhinestones and gold beads, on Oxford Street, a shopper’s paradise.

 

#1 Lace-up Boots, about 1900
Silk, silk brocade, and laces

Victorian ladies wore boots like these under long dresses with bell-shaped skirts. This pair is crafted from luxurious brocade fabric made with silk and metallic threads, its intricate floral pattern gleaming in the right light. Not only were these shoes made during the Victorian era (one of my favorite time periods), but they are aesthetically stunning and skillfully crafted, therefore making them my top choice!

 

View these stylish items in our first Taft Museum of Art exhibition of the new year. Walk This Way | Footwear from the Stuart Weitzman Collection of Historic Shoes is on display February 27–June 6, 2021, in our Fifth Third Gallery.

Ann Glasscock, Assistant Curator

About the author

Ann Glasscock, Assistant Curator

Ann Glasscock serves as the assistant curator at the Taft Museum of Art. Specializing in decorative arts and furniture, she contributes to various aspects of the museum’s operation, including curating exhibitions and conducting research on the permanent collection. Prior to the Taft, she worked for the Chazen Museum of Art in Madison, Wisconsin, Chipstone Foundation in Milwaukee, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She also spent several years in the auction house field and worked as a specialist in the Silver & Objets de Vertu and English & Continental Decorative Arts departments at Freeman’s in Philadelphia.

 

In 2019, Ann received a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin–Madison where she completed her dissertation “Hudson Roysher: Silversmith, Designer, Craftsman,” which explored Roysher’s participation in the revival of ecclesiastical silver in postwar America. Ann earned a bachelor’s from Indiana University–Bloomington, master of letters from Christie’s Education London, and a master’s in art history from Temple University. She also attended the Attingham Summer School and the Dresden International Academy for the Arts and has received numerous grants and scholarships for her work.

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