New shoe exhibit coming to Museum at FIT in September

Manolo Blahnik, evening shoes, 2017. Gift of Manolo Blahnik.
Photo courtesy of MFIT

The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (MFIT) is proud to present “Shoes: Anatomy, Identity, Magic.” The exhibit explores our physical, social and psychological relationship with footwear through various artworks and diverse, cultural shoes.

Dr. Valerie Steele, MFIT director and chief curator and Colleen Hill, curator of costume and accessories, will be the curators of this showcase.  The exhibition includes more than 300 of the 5,000 pairs of shoes, boots, sandals and sneakers in the museum’s permanent collection, also called “the closet.”

The exhibit starts with baby shoes to show how we have had shoes our entire life. Shoes that are iconic in movies and pop culture will be featured in the exhibit to enhance the symbolism of shoes in our daily lives and in production.

“The ‘embodied turn’ in fashion studies has brought renewed attention to the intimate relationship between body, dress, and sense of self,” said Steele. “We are inviting visitors to ask themselves, Shoe are you? Hence our three, somewhat mysterious-sounding themes of anatomy, identity, and magic.”  

One of the show’s main themes is anatomy, and how so many shoes are not catered to the anatomy of our feet. The exhibit dives into the details of how we move differently when wearing different types of footwear. The idea of how shoes compliment our anatomy, such as toes, calves and thighs also will be looked into.

The next theme that is explored is the idea of identity. They look into how different shoes and shoe styles can determine someone’s age, gender, social status, sexuality and taste. The shoes are arranged so visitors can see the juxtaposition between different styles and come to their own conclusions about who wore them.

“Red shoes can represent wealth, status, danger, and sex appeal, depending on the context,” explains Hill.

The last theme is an unexpected one. When you think about shoes your brain does not typically go to magic. The collection says that the right pair of shoes has the ability to change our lives. There is even a reference to Cinderella’s glass slipper that changed her life completely. Dorothy’s iconic ruby red slippers are also an example of how shoes can hold magic within them; even if it was not real, the shoes still hold magic within our hearts.

Along with shoes, the exhibit will also feature an illustrated book for visitors to look through, “Shoes: The Collection of The Museum at FIT.” Steele says that shoes are “objects of desire” and that this exhibit shows the “power and allure of shoes.”

“Shoes: Anatomy, Identity, Magic” will be open from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31, 2022. MFIT is located at 227 W 27th St.

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