Preview: “Shoes: Pleasure and Pain” at the V&A London


When I heard my beloved V&A was going to open an exhibition called “Shoes: Pleasure and Pain” I was filled with excitement, after all, it focuses around my magic word: shoes.

Not only that, it looks at footwear extremes, a subject, in fact, I am particularly fascinated by. On top of it, these 250 pairs, spanning 2,000 years, 20 countries and 70 designers, chart cultural, sociological and historical significance of shoes, as well as their power of transformation, which I can personally vouch for. And obsession.

You can read my squees of excitement here when I found out about the exhibition – so you can only imagine the extra loud squee for me being at the preview and seeing it all three days before it opened to the public.

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Why do women wear painful heels?

Shoe God

According to Christian Louboutin, it is because wearing heels makes you (feel) more desirable – it is all about seduction in various levels – and the price paid (discomfort) is small when put against the benefits.

Well, quite. I certainly feel that way, and have for years, actually mentioning it many times, obviously never worth of publishing as I am not famous OR an spectacular shoe designer – but I have feet, and wear high heels – it is good to see my point validated!

Historically, think about corsets that squeezed the life out of you or Elizabethan era hair dye that had side effects including nose bleeds, to name just a couple – which were common practice, all done in the name of being perceived and feeling more desirable.

Less to do with being more seductive (but not excluding the possibility), my decision on wearing a pair of shoes has a lot to do with the way it makes me feel – could be sexy, but also serious, powerful, playful or dare I say, tarty – not only portraying  the person I am, exposing my personality, but also the person I want to be, in general or on that particular occasion. Needless to say, this applies to other aspects of my life, but it is more pronounced on my shoe choices.

However extreme it may sound, I am not afraid of painful feet (especially when you have bunions like mine!) if I feel fabulous. Having said all that, I do consider myself to be very good with heels, I usually have no problems dancing for many hours on 4in+ shoes.

Admittedly, I have drastically reduced the frequency with which I wear high heels in the past 18 months, as my knee is not great (and even though I don’t see a direct correlation between my knee pain and wearing heels, I decided to lay off them a bit as a preventative measure), and I avoid walking too much on them (if I get public transport, and walk to/from stations, I do so in flats, carrying my heels).

Some of Mr Louboutin’s very interesting statements on the subject, including my favourite about the shoe playing with women’s inner characters, can be found on Vogue. Obvioulsy, when he mentions “this little act of discomfort”, I take that Mr Louboutin  never wore his own Rolandos for the very first time to try to break into them. Ouch!