Back in October 2013 I exhibited a series of five boots at Gallery@OXO tower London UK ‘The Imaginary Happenings of Hospitalfield’ (to view these boots along with a short video click here) : A body of work created in response to an artist residency opportunity at Hospitalfield House, Arbroath, Scotland.
All five boots have recently been acquired by The Northampton Museums & Art Gallery UK permanent footwear collection. The museum has one of the worlds most outstanding footwear collections, with key pieces that represent makers, design, production, innovation, and the history of footwear. Together the collection stands to preserve footwear for the future ~ so for my series boots to be cared for amongst such an important crowd of footwear styles I am truly proud and honoured.
To celebrate the new acquisition I requested the Northampton Museums and Art Gallery put forward ten footwear styles from the permanent collection that are considered to be of special significance. I imagine it must have been very difficult to compile this list, Thank you to the team at the museum for assisting me to put together this post.
no. 1: Queen Victoria’s Wedding Shoes
Maker / Brand: Gundry & Son, 1 Soho Square, London. Boot and Shoemakers to the Queen
Date of acquisition: January 1949
Materials: Silk, Satin and Leather
Significance: unique, worn by Queen Victoria on her wedding day
Key Detail: Long ribbon ties fastened round the ankles to hold the shoes in place.
These shoes…were worn by Queen Victoria on her wedding day 10th February 1840. Queen Victoria married her cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in the Chapel Royal, St. James, London. To compliment her white satin dress trimmed with Honiton lace she wore these flat soled shoes trimmed with ribbon. They show the typical style worn by women of the time – simple flat soled square toed slip on shoes.
no. 2: Moira Shearer’s pointe ballet shoes
Maker / Brand: Freed
Date of acquisition: 1966
Materials: Satin and Leather
Significance: Evocative pointe shoes made for Moira Shearer to wear in the film ‘The Red Shoes’ (1948)
Key Detail: This pair was prepared to be worn, the toes have been darned and the ribbons attached, but they remained unused.
These pointe ballet shoes… were one of twenty five pairs of pointe shoes made by Freed to be worn by Moira Shearer to take her through all rehearsals and filming.
no. 3 Cloud and Rainbow Heels
Maker / Brand: Shoemaker and designer Thea Cadabra
Date of acquisition: 1979
Origin: Purchased from Thea Cadabra
Materials: Suede, Leather, Synthetic materials and beads
Significance: An eye catching seminal design by Thea Cadabra
Key Detail: Floating cloud and lightning motifs, mixed material combination
These heels… were made for the Arts Council exhibition called The Shoe Show: British Shoes Since 1790. It took place at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall London, 5 December 1979 to 6 January 1980.
no. 4: 1851 Exhibition boot
Maker / Brand: John Nelson Hefford, shoemaker from Derby
Date of acquisition: 2006
Significance: A showcase of skills for the great exhibition UK. Came with label stating the pair won a prize medal at the Great Exhibition 1851.
Key Details: Pair of beige and black leather dress Wellington boots. They have a wide flat square toe with a low stacked heel. Galosh in black leather with shaped top edge. Leg in beige leather with side seams piped in red. Front of leg decorated with appliqué design in black leather and coloured silk (now missing) of crown, national emblems, crosses, stars and scalloped border. Back of leg decorated with scrolling pattern. Beige leather boot top band. Wide ribbon loop sewn to inside of top at sides. Its leather sole has a domed waist.
This pair of boots… are a wonderful example of exhibition craftsmanship. Shoemakers were craftsmen. They had served an apprenticeship to learn their trade and were proud of their skills. They often made special shoes for exhibitions, beginning with the Great Exhibition of 1851. These are full size shoes and could be worn if you could get them on your feet. They show a very high standard of workmanship.
no 5: Kinky Boots
Maker / Brand: Unknown
Date of acquisition: 2006
Origin: Loan and then donation
Materials: Leather and printed pony
Significance: Appeared as set dressing / props in the film Kinky Boots (2005).
Key Detail: Dramatic metallic red over the knee boot
These boots… were used in the film Kinky Boots. The film was based on the true story of a shoemaker from Earls Barton, Northamptonshire who diversified into making large size Kinky Boots for men and women.
no 6: Silver Platforms
Maker / Brand: John Fluevog Shoes for Sacha
Date of acquisition: 2006
Materials: Leather and synthetic
Significance: A wonderful example of 1970s platform shoes
Key Detail: Metallic leather with a dynamic square toe & high flared heels
This pair of woman’s silver leather buckle shoes with platform sole…examine the transition of footwear styles from the 60s to the 70s and capture the spirit of the 1970s dance floor
no 7: Confetti Shoe
Maker / Brand: Made by ‘the girls’, the closers, at Sears Factory, Northampton in 1925. This was a common practice at the factory to make a confetti shoe to give to a bride working at the same shoe factory.
Date of acquisition: 1987
Materials: paper, ribbon, adhesive
Significance: A great example of how shoes can pervade all aspects of life and be associated with rites of passage
Key Detail: Women’s single shoe covered with confetti, ribbon tied on vamp
This single shoe… was given to Edith Crouch at her wedding to Frederick Arthur Amos at St Michael’s Church, Northampton on August 2 1925. Edith was a closer at Sears shoe factory and Fred was a clicker at Oakeshott & Finnemore shoe factory.
no 8: Super Elevated Ghillie Platforms
Maker / Brand: Designed by Vivienne Westwood
Date of acquisition: 1999
Origin: Commissioned and purchased
Materials: Leather, synthetic material, and cotton laces
Significance: The blue moc croc Super Elevated Ghillie shoes were made famous when the super model Naomi Campbell was filmed falling to the ground in them as she walked down the catwalk for the Vivienne Westwood Autumn/Winter 1993-4 collection.
These platforms… were made famous when Naomi tumbled during a catwalk show in Paris in 1993. The innovative adaptation of a traditional footwear style is typical to many shoes Vivienne Westwood has designed during her career.
no 9: Wheel Heels
Maker / Brand: Designed by Maurice Kurdash for Mexico shoes Ltd (now Gina Shoes Ltd)
Dated: Circa 1965
Date of acquisition: 2001
Materials: Leather and brass
Significance: A very interesting design from the 1960s.
Key Detail: Wheel in place of top piece on heel
This Pair of pumps… features a wheel is set at a critical angle, so that as the wearer puts weight on it a brake action is achieved. It was said to prevent the pitting problems in floors as well as problems of the heel breaking. Quite a novelty but do you think you can wear them safely?
no 10: George Boots
Maker / Brand: Designed by Guy West for Jeffery-West
Date of acquisition: 2002
Significance: These boots take Northampton’s long standing tradition of making classic English men’s shoes and with the Jeffery-West own twist.
Key Detail: The leather has been digitally printed with a repeated image of Pete Murphy who was the lead singer of Northampton band Bauhaus
These mens boots… are made through Jeffery-West, a well-known and successful shoe company located in Northampton and with outlets in Piccadilly, London City, Leeds, Manchester, New York and Taipei. We are always interested in expanding our collection and are keen to collect locally made shoes as well as shoes from across the world.