Walking Points

A new MFA exhibit underscores the artistry of footwear, from early Egyptian sandals to modern-day Miu Miu platforms.


Following on the heels of its haute couture exhibit, “Fashion Show: Paris Collections 2006,” the Museum of Fine Arts this month debuts “Walk This Way,” which makes a play for both sartorial fetishists and art enthusiasts as it pairs some 30 examples of shoes with more-traditional works of art. Visitors can ponder, for instance, the connections between Celtics star Kevin Garnett’s sneakers and ancient Greek depictions of athletes, Boston Ballet pointe shoes and Degas’s The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer, and heels worn by Marilyn Monroe and Andy Warhol’s Marilyn.

Part of the museum’s ongoing quest to further the notion of fashion as art, “Walk This Way” offers snapshots of societies around the world and across the decades. “Shoes reflect the culture of the time in which they were made in so many ways,” says show co-curator Lauren Whitley. Women’s T-strap styles of the 1920s, for example, were designed to complement that era’s climbing hemlines—not to mention its kick-up-your-heels attitude. “Dresses were closer to the knee, and suddenly the shoes were really sweet and fancy, and made for dancing,” she says. (For her part, Whitley favors the neoclassical slippers worn in the early 19th century: “They look like little Roman sandals—they’re adorable.”)

Considering the popularity that “Fashion Show”—which highlighted the creations of 10 top couturiers—enjoyed at the MFA this past winter, museum organizers evidently decided Boston was ripe for another stylish exhibit. Whitley certainly thinks so. “There’s an interest in fashion here,” she says. “It’s been said that Boston is puritanical and conservative about fashion, but that’s over.”

Among the more contemporary specimens featured in “Walk This Way” are a pair of Sex and the City–esque Manolo Blahnik Mary Janes and the Adidas shell-toe Superstars made famous by Run-DMC. What about wall time for some Crocs? Deadpans Whitley, “This is the Museum of Fine Arts.”

9/27–3/23 at the MFA, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, 617-267-9300, mfa.org.

Go on to the next page to find out Lauren Whitley’s top picks…


High Kicks

 

The MFA’s Lauren Whitley picks the best in shoe.

1. Native American moccasins, 1780s–1820s: “These are from an East Coast tribe, possibly the Iroquois. Almost nothing remains from such tribes, so these are special.”

2. Slap-sole shoes, 1660s: “The padded, pointed toe on these is adorable, and the wearer’s heel slides into a pocket to keep the clomping to a minimum. A pair of fall 2006 shoes from Marc Jacobs references this style.”

3. Chopines, 1700s: “These tall platform shoes—carved from wood or cork, and often covered with luxurious fabrics—were a real statement, particularly in Italy, where they could reach such extreme heights as 20 inches or more. The seriously fashionable needed a servant’s help to walk.”

4. Tie shoes, 1720s: “The sweet pointed toe and cute red heels are great. These shoes have a beautiful, finished quality that I love.”

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