Shoes, Shoes Everywhere

August 22, 2018


On a rainy, overcast Monday in April, I was flipping through the New York Post when I came across an article that stopped me in my tracks. It was titled Step Into the Past and described a fascinating footwear exhibit that was opening at the New York Historical Society on April 20th.

Dates for this stunning exhibit are: from Friday, April 20 to Monday, October 8, 2018

I’m not really a big “shoe” person, but this looked très interesting so I asked my museum buddy if she’d like to go and take a look at 100-plus pairs of pumps, mules and more that go back almost 200 years. Of course she said, “Yes!” Even before I got the question out. A lot of women really love shoes.

So on Thursday, April 26th we headed up to Grand Central, took the shuttle to Times Square and jumped on the subway for a short ride to 72nd Street. Then, because it was sunny and pleasant, we had a nice stroll up Central Park West to the New York Historical Society that is located between 76th and 77th.

The library in the New York Historical Society – for 214 years it has been preserving and sharing the history of New York and the nation

We went directly to the Fourth Floor to see this stunning personal collection of shoe guru, Stuart Weitzman. (His wife began collecting these historic shoes for him 30 years ago. That’s true love.)

A real showstopper: The Rialto Bridge shoe – my vote for #1 in the exhibit

The overall theme, if you will, is how the evolution of feminine footwear syncs with the changing role of women in society. Raquel Laneri, who interviewed Weitzman for this article has an interesting quote that really started me thinking.

Weitzman says, “You really see the power of what the women’s movement did to female footwear. Men kept pushing them into shoes that were killing them so women started to change the industry by demanding shoes that actually felt good.”


In 1838 a dainty satin slipper with thin soles was the footwear coveted by wealthy females. But this changed in the 1920s when women demanded the right to vote and took to the streets in sturdy boots.

A colorful brochure from the Stuart Weitzman shoe exhibit


I love reading about people who come up with solutions that leave the rest of us open-mouthed. Beth Levine, a smart and talented shoe designer developed an elastic device called THE SPRING-O-LATOR. This deceptively simple device helped secure backless shoes. Now women could pound the pavement all day – and dance all night in high-heeled mules.


And, yes, there’s a pair of classy pink mules in the collection that belonged to actress/dancer (drum roll here) GINGER ROGERS. I was so fascinated with these shoes my nose was about four inches away from them! Such a simple, elegant solution – I’m also cheering for Melody Avecilla and her “heels-to-flats” shoe. CLICK HERE to read more.

Okay, if you go to this exhibit, don’t forget to look at the bright red, sparkling lace-up over-the-knee stompers from the Broadway musical, Kinky Boots – a real showstopper. A quote from the show: “Red is the color of fear and danger and signs that say, Do. Not. Enter. All my favorite things in life.”

“My feet are so big, I’ve never seen a pair of stilettos that would fit me – until now,” says Jake Shears of his Kinky Boots. Photo: courtesy of the January 2018 issue of In New York.  


Shaun Nelson-Henrick 

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