Over the past few seasons we’ve tackled the extreme shoe trend one foot at a time. For Spring/Summer 2010 the camp is divided, with a relief of even-platform sandals, sturdy clogs, and kitten heels facing off with Alexander McQueen’s hulking 10-inch ‘Alien’ heels. To the awe of the fashion community, Daphne Guinness recently sported the McQueens straight off the runway with enviable ease. Admirable, but modest in comparison to the 16th-century ‘chopines’ once worn by high-society Venetian women.
Now open at Toronto’s Bata Shoe Museum, ‘On A Pedestal’ is an exhibit of rare Austrian, German, Swedish, Milanese, and Venetian footwear that symbolizes the cultural meanings of the original extreme heel. In the case of ‘chopines’, the lofty shoes expressed social status and wealth. The towering platform slippers worn by these high-fashion predecessors measured upwards of 20 inches; shoemakers struggled to meet customer demands for higher and higher heels.
Whether it’s our competitive nature or a matter of aesthetics, the desire to rise above is a longstanding one.
‘On a Pedestal’ remains on view until September 2010. —Fiona Green