From the functional and practical to the fashionable and extravagant, shoes have played an intriguing role in our social history and modern lives. They can tell us about a person’s work, leisure choices, status, and aspirations - but the story is not always straightforward. Conformity to gender stereotypes is blurred, power statements conceal repression, and the utilitarian merges with the frippery.
SHOES: Inside Out is an exhibition featuring footwear from our past, dating as far back as 11 AD to the present. Through the themes of work, protect, play, empower, transform, identify and aspire, a highlight selection of 70 pairs of shoes from our collections, explore how shoes have shaped, and have been shaped by, society. From Georgian high society shoes to 1970s platforms and current high-end designer heels to everyday boots there is a shoe to fit all interests.
Alongside the footwear, a display of high-definition x-rays allow us to glimpse the story within. They uncover developments in the shoes’ construction and reveal an ethereal reminiscence of a life lived.
X-ray / Photograph, Green silk, beaded women's evening shoe, c1920s
X-ray credit: Angela Middleton, Archaeological Conservator, Historic England