A Shoe-In

Husband and I have just moved, so we’re doing battle with a deluge of boxes. In amongst that monotonous mountain, I have scrabbled first and foremost for the ones marked “shoes”. You see, I just couldn’t let my little pumps and slender heels sit for too long inside a box, bashed about, bored and bereft-of-foot. Nor would the riding boots or cute new clogs hold up in any way well to weeks of crushing in constricted space. So out they all came, greeted, treated and seated comfortably at the bottom of our new-home cupboards.

I’m reconciled to the fact that I’ll lose at least a handful of male readers here, as I start to tell the ladies about the Shoe Galleries at Selfridges in London. They just opened a couple of months ago and truly, this might be a reason to cross the Pond pronto. In stretching spaces, 4,000 pairs of shoes sit-in-wait, ready to seduce the eager visitor: the collection is divided into 120 lust-after labels, from Louboutin to Lanvin, and Topshop to Tod’s.

They say the shelves heave with every permutation of slingback, stacked heel, sandal, slipper and shoe-boot. It’s making my feet twitch just thinking about it. “We’re incredibly proud and so excited by the Selfridges Shoe Galleries” says director of accessories, Sebastian Manes. “We’re offering customers a unique shoe experience for all budgets.”

Oh you betcha, but it’ll be a bit before I can get to the store… So in the meantime, in the spirit of a small shoe shopping spree, I’ve rustled up a couple of pairs from another gallery, the NGA. First up, a beautiful brocaded silk pair, rendered in a watercolor, graphite, and gouache on paperboard study by American artist, Marie Alain (c. 1935). This is shoe with historical heft: it’s an 18th-century style, sporting all the elaborate trimmings fashionable at the time (crossover flaps on the vamp and stitched florals on the sides). I like a lot the sculpted shape of the heel, and if you’re concerned about stepping out in soggy autumn/ winter streets, pattens (that is, separate wooden or leather soles) can be attached over the shoes whenever necessary.

Next up is this chunky-but-charming set of sabots (French for clogs). Really, the hands-on craft-work here rivals any Manolo or Miu Miu: these come courtesy of the French artist Paul Gauguin (1848 – 1903). These are an investment piece: they’re made from oak wood, with a leather under-sole and iron nails, so really will last a lifetime. The shoe offsets it’s practical design with two dainty, detailed painted scenes from one of the painting greats of the 19th century. Great under jeans or a midi-length skirt.

One thought on “A Shoe-In

  1. When I was in Amsterdam a year ago, we sat in a shop and watched a man make those wood clogs. They seem to be the most impractical shoe ever made but they function quite well. They were first designed for workers in the fields that would frequently flood. Wooden shoes were great because they would float and dry quickly. As you said these shoes will last centuries. Aside from their practicality, they have become an experimental canvas for some artists.

    Great post!

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