Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Weekend Read

An Illustrated History
by Rebecca Shawcross
From high heels to protective boots, shoes are powerful objects of desire as well as a practical necessity. They are also fascinating indicators of the fashions, social attitudes, and economic backdrop of the times in which they were made and worn.

This lavishly illustrated volume takes the reader on a glorious journey through many centuries of footwear from antiquity to the present, showcasing a dazzling array of shoes from all over the world. Written by expert curator Rebecca Shawcross, the book is packed with social and historical detail putting shoe trends, superstitions and traditions in context and exploring shoes as symbolic and highly personal objects which evoke a time, place and an emotion.
Shoes: An Illustrated History is the definitive guide to footwear from fetish heels to winklepickers and a must-read for students, researchers and anyone interested in fashion.


A Museum Display of Shoes

Pattern from 1434

Photo Eliza took at Linlithgow Castle Scotland.  Part of a child's shoe.



I was delighted to receive a copy of one of my new favorite books: SHOES: An Illustrated History, by Rebecca Shawcross.


I have had a fascination with shoes since birth—one that has continued into an expensive habit I passed down to my little princesses… But more than just my interest in modern shoes, I’ve been enchanted by those things that have encased our feet throughout history: the construction, the feel, the look. All of it!


First off, I am extremely envious of Shawcross’s job—she has been involved with the shoe collection at Northampton Museum and Art Gallery for the last sixteen years, and she is the Assistant Keeper of the Boot and Shoe Collection. Can you imagine??? I would love to shadow her… But back to the book!


Shawcross had me DROOLING over this book, because not only does she tantalize the historical nerd in me with in-depth descriptions of shoes from the pre-historic era to footwear today, but each entry comes with shoe eye-candy!


Of course, my most favorite parts were the Middle Ages through the European Renaissance, but I’m biased when it comes to them. The one thing I’ve wondered for years, and can’t help but continue to wonder, is how we survived walking around in some of these shoes. I mean, they were incredibly uncomfortable looking.


But also there was a lot of practicality—think about Pattens. These were medieval galoshes, without the rubber. You’d slip your shoe into the leather strap, the bottom piece being a raised wooden platform. Voila! Your shoes didn’t get ruined in the rain or snow.


And let’s be honest, shoes were a hot commodity. Especially in the Renaissance era when HOURS were put into intricate embroidery.


This is a book I’m going to keep out in a place that I—and any guests—can look at often, I love it that much!


Highly recommend!

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