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A NATTY NUGGET: A Walk Through Fashion's History

On our way to Toronto last week, my boyfriend (later referred to as N) flipped idly through a freebie airline magazine, browsing the "best of" Canada's sights and scenes.   As he came upon a page advertising Toronto's Bata Shoe Museum, N said nothing but slid the mag over to my seat as I sleepily opened one eye in mild interest.  "SHOE MUSEUM?!" I squealed in delight, my eyes popping open - I was instantly awakened from one reverie, and into a new one.  Yep, that was it - I had my free time planned for the day.

What could be more exciting for a fashionphile and self-proclaimed "Imelda Marcos-in-Training" than a museum dedicated to her very favorite accessory?!  So, after a long, orientating conversation with the extraordinarily helpful and seriously fabulous hotel concierge - I set out on my trek to find this historical homage to all things footwear.  Below are the highlights of what I found - from the most microscopic to the most gargantuan.  I've also included some particularly fascinating bits of info I learned - which offer some interesting insight into fashion's psychology.  Does all of this make me a nerd?  Probably.  But heck, at least I'm well heeled!  

Who could possibly have smaller feet than Barbie??  Polly Pocket - that's who.

Attention to detail that would put every Louis Vuitton "seamstress" to shame: These lilliputian stockings measure about 1.5 inches long, and were actually HAND KNIT with minuscule needles and thread - unbelievable? Watch the video.

Nobody believed  the old adage "beauty is pain" more than 10th century Chinese women, forced to bind their feet to fit in shoes that could fit in my palm.  

Espadrilles 1.0?  I mean - these look almost wearable...

Ooh, THERE it is!!  Cinderella's glass slipper, finally found.

The world's first wedges.

Talk about a platform...

Is this what's next for Nina Ricci??

"A DELICATE BALANCE - Criticism of the Chopine
Chopines, and the women who wore them, were the focus of much criticism and derision in the 16th century.  Many sumptuary laws took aim at chopines as a means of controlling textile consumption while critics derided the women who wore them on moral, intellectual and aesthetic grounds.  Despite the fact that women were expected, often required to wear chopines, they also had to bear the brunt of criticism levelled against the wearing of them."

UGGs: the original.

Medieval times were all about the pointy toe...

Apparently thigh-high boots were a men's trend first...

"HEIGHT OF FEMININITY - Gender & High Heels 
At the close of the 17th century, heels were well on their way to becoming an exclusively feminine form of footwear.  This increased gendering of footwear mirrored larger cultural trends that sought to define masculinity as "rational" and femininity as "irrational".  Attention to matters of dress was offered as proof of women's inborn imprudence and the wearing of high heels came to be seen as providing clear evidence of this failing.  The rejection of the high heel and other forms of impractical dress by men was seen as confirming their intrinsic good sense.
As men moved toward more subdued attire, the proclamation of familial wealth through dress once again became the responsibility of women's apparel.  Just as the chopine in the 15th and 16th centuries, the high heel would become inexorably connected to the construction of femininity and the economics of fashionable display." 
*Natty's Note: Can you believe it?? I, for one, am NEVER irrational when it comes to fashion. Especially NOT when I'm in line at 8am for a sample sale - in hopes of snagging first dibs on deals, or when I go to bed dreaming of a bag I saw at Barneys earlier.  Listen, sometimes 5 inch stilettos are essential.  6 inches of wooden wedge under each foot is ALWAYS well worth the cost of Advil you'll take during the evening to survive the pain. And YES they will hold our reservation if we're late to dinner because it takes me twice as long to walk anywhere. Didn't you see Memoir's of a Geisha? I'm channeling that chick - minus that whole "opressed-and-objectified" part.  Sheesh.

And last but not least, no shoe museum would be complete without an homage to the man and the show (and the reason I was there) that brought true appreciation to women's designer footwear: Manolo Blahnik and Sex and the City.



  1. Great post. Really interesting. Have you seen videos of older chinese women with their feet? I forget which show I was watching, but it showed a woman who STILL binds her feet. Ouch.

  2. No! But I would love to see that...gonna have to Google...Thanks Gena!

  3. OMG I totally enjoyed this! Awesome.