Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Adorning the Feet

At the Bata Shoe Museum, as an international centre of footwear research, we house more than just shoes in our collection. Many societies have found other ways to adorn and decorate the foot as a part of traditional culture. An example of this can be seen in our large collection of Indian foot and ankle jewellery.

In the West, sandals were worn by both men and women in the Classical Age, but they fell from favour at the advent of the Middle Ages. For centuries feet remained concealed in shoes and were only revealed when sandals came back into fashion in the 20th century. In many other parts of the world, however, the foot was not so sequestered from view but rather was pampered and even ornamented. In India, women of the upper classes traditionally devoted a great deal of time to the care of their feet. Feet were bathed, massaged with scented oils and the soles were often dyed with red lac or henna. Ankle bracelets and toe rings added the final touches to these pampered feet.

Foot scrubbers, Rajashtan, 19th century (Photo: John Bigelow Taylor)

Footscrubbers were traditionally an important part of an Indian woman's toilette. The base of the bronze scrubbers are typically cast with a rough surface for rubbing the skin while the handles are sculpted to incorporate motifs such as birds, animals and scenes from everyday life.

Ankle Bracelets, India, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, c. 1900 (Photo: John Bigelow Taylor)

Although women throughout India traditionally wore ankle bracelets, there is a wide range in variations in design. This silver pair (above) features brightly coloured enamel work. Enamel was used extensively in Indian jewellery making to enhance the brilliance and lustre of a woman's embellishment.

Fish toe ring, India, Orissa, Oriyan, 20th century

Toe rings were another favoured foot ornament in traditional Indian culture. The silver fish on the toe ring, which is a sign of fertility and abundance in India, would have seemed to swim with every step the wearer took!

For more information and images relating to traditional Indian footwear and foot adornments visit the exhibit "Paduka: Feet and Footwear in the Indian Tradition" in our virtual museum All About Shoes.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Collector's Story

Herbert Levine c.1962-64

One of the questions we get asked most at the Bata Shoe Museum is how we acquire the shoes in our collection. While we collect shoes in a variety of ways, one of the most important is through donations. While museum quality shoes are not easy to come by, some individuals manage to amass beautiful collections of rare and special artefacts. This is the case with collector Katherine Woodward who has donated several beautiful pairs of fashion shoes to the Museum. A shoe enthusiast who lives in Pasadena, California, Katherine was happy to tell us about her history with footwear.

"I loved shoes so much as a kid I insisted on wearing new pairs to bed. I studied fashion merchandising in college and have worked in retail for over 25 years in many capacities including visual display, public relations and sales consulting. While working at Nordstrom and Macy's I collected most of my personal shoe wardrobe. At the start of my fashion career shoes were chosen to complete a look, say a monochromatic colour story. Now I purchase unique, fun shoes with personality that can be worn to make a fashion statement on their own. I see shoes as sculpture more than for adornment or functionality."

Katherine, who studied fashion in college, has donated seven pairs of designer shoes to the Bata Shoe Museum. Once her collection grew too large for her home display space she contacted the Bata Shoe Museum about donating some of her best items to ensure they were properly cared for and preserved. Her donations have been a great addition to our collection and have appeared in multiple exhibitions. One pair is currently on display in our "Fashion Afoot" display, and has the distinction of being Katherine's first major find. These blue sling-backs, designed by Charles Jourdan for Pierre Cardin, were found by Katherine in a thrift store for only $20.00 in 1992!

Pierre Cardin c. 1967-68

Some other amazing finds Katherine has made are 3 pairs of Roger Vivier shoes (her favourite designer) for $20.00 each in a vintage boutique in South Pasadena, California. Her luck at finding shoes of this quality at these prices shows what you can find when you look hard enough! Katherine was kind enough to donate one of these amazing pairs and a matching handbag to the Museum where they appeared in our "Icons of Elegance" display and accompanying catalogue.

Roger Vivier c.1966-68

Katherine's passion for shoe collection continues today as she keeps her eyes open for the next find great find. Still on the list - her first pair of Ferragamos!

All images copyright 2010 Bata Shoe Museum

Monday, August 23, 2010

Celebrating Celebrity Shoes - Elizabeth Taylor

"Elizabeth Taylor, one of the great actresses of Hollywood's golden age, has lived a life epitomizing the glamour and drama of the movie business.  From her legendary roles such as Cleopatra, her much publicized romances (and many marriages!), and her lifelong involvement in charitable works, Taylor's life has been as dramatic and remarkable as any of the many movies in which she has starred.  These glamourous silver sandals owned and worn by Elizabeth Taylor remind me of why the public continues to be intrigued and fascinated by the lives and loves of Hollywood stars."
Nicole Cahill, Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator

These autographed strappy silver stiletto sandals were designed by Halston and owned and worn by Elizabeth Taylor in the early 1980's.

Collection of the Bata Shoe Museum

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Conserving History

Shoes pre-conservation
As our special exhibition "On a Pedestal: From Renaissance Chopines to Baroque Heels" comes to an end, the many rare and precious artefacts in it will be returned to either the European museums who generously loaned them to us or to the storage rooms of the Bata Shoe Museum. When presenting an exhibit which displays such rare and fragile items, it often means some of the artefacts will need to conserved and repaired in order to keep them in the best condition possible. This was the case with this pair of 17th century slapsole shoes. Among many of the conservation efforts made in this exhibition was a repair to the delicate 17th century fabric of these shoes.

These shoes had suffered serious fabric losses to both sides of the vamp (the upper part of a boot or shoe covering the instep and usually extending over the toe), as well as minor fabric losses along the topline. The silver filament metallic lace had unraveled around the corners of the toes and the backs of the heels. Our conservator, Ada Hopkins, needed to find a way to create a fabric which could be used to fill in these losses but not look out of place on a 17th century shoe.

In order to achieve this, a silk satin of similar weight was dyed in a hot bath of Earl Grey tea which was historically used to dye small batches of textiles and lace made from natural fibres. This method gives a pinky-yellow faded-antique colour to the bright white silk. Strands of hair silk were dyed to match in the same manner. Dyed fabric for each shoe was cut using templates which had been created by placing small pieces of plastic over the area of loss and tracing the outline. Next, tiny strips of an adhesive film were cut to the shape of the existing satin. The fabric infill was then inserted along with adhesive strips which are vapour activated. Any frayed fibres which had not been secured were then stitched into place using the hair silk.

Back seam of shoe
During the conservation of this shoe, a small treasure, a tiny section of the original coloured fabric which had not been changed by the effects of time, was discovered on the back seam of the heel. These unusual shoes were originally peachy-pink with shiny silver lace that would have glittered when exposed to the candlelight in the wearer's room!

This rare pair of 17th century slapsoles can be seen on display in "On a Pedestal" only until September 20th, 2010.
Slapshoes after conservation

All images (c) 2010 Bata Shoe Museum

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Art to Boot" at the Bata Shoe Museum

Today is the first day of a new "snapshot" exhibition on display in our B1 foyer. Snapshot exhibitions are small-scale themed displays, on view for a limited amount of time. We are proud to have one of our favourite annual snapshot exhibitions on right now, "Art to Boot", a collection of artist- designed Blundstone boots which will be auctioned off as a fundraiser for Sketch, a wonderful organization which creates art making opportunities for  street-involved and homeless youth or those who are considered to be at risk.

Judging Day at the Sketch loft

The Sketch experience starts at the organization's offices, where our Assistant Curator Sarah Beam-Borg is one of the judges in the Blundstone boot design competition. After spending some time in Sketch's amazing light-filled King Street loft, which is full of the incredible artwork of youth artists who benefit from this organization, the 20 pairs of Blundstones were transfered back to the Bata Shoe Museum to be prepared to exhibition.

Assistant Curator Sarah Beam-Borg puts the finishing touches on the "Art to Boot" exhibition. 

Until September 22nd, these art pieces will be on display as part of regular admission to the Bata Shoe Museum. They will then be auctioned off at an event at the Gladstone Hotel on September 23rd.  For more pics of this year's boots check out our Facebook page.

Just two of the 20 pairs of artist-designed Blundstones now on display

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Celebrating Celebrity Shoes - Tennis Edition!

This week, in celebration of the Rogers Cup, Canada's major tennis open, the Bata Shoe Museum is excited to show you two special pairs of shoes belonging to two men who are a part of tennis and sports history as one of the 20th century's great athletic rivalries!

"Bj√∂rn Borg vs. John McEnroe, two of the best tennis players ever, met a total of 14 times between 1978 and 1981. To the pre-teen boy I was then they embodied what sport and life was all about. A Borg-McEnroe match-up was an athletic contest, but more fascinating still were the contrasting styles in which they played the game: the Swede always calm and collected; the American throwing tantrums and spitting insults at umpires. For me it wasn’t –and isn’t- a matter of choosing a favourite. What I admired in both of them was their total commitment to playing their best game, and the respect they showed each other."
Roger Hunziker, Education and Public Programs Coordinator

These tennis shoes were owned and worn by the two tennis greats - Borg on the left and McEnroe on the right. The shoes from Borg were bought at auction. The shoes from McEnroe were presented to Mrs. Sonja Bata at the Players International Champoinship (now the Rogers Cup) in 1984 at the National Tennis Centre, York University Toronto. He explained to Mrs. Bata that the shoes had a cut in them which he had made himself due to a foot problem.

Both shoes are signed and are part of the collection of the Bata Shoe Museum.

Check out these two amazing players battling it out in one of their most famous matches.