• Women's 'Flapper' evening shoe, Julienne, France. c.1920s
  • Men’s platform shoes. c.1973-1975
  • Women’s ‘Alti’ shoes, Christian Louboutin, c.2009-2010
  • Women’s wedge shoes, John Galliano, 2010s

Following its success at Basingstoke’s Willis Museum and Sainsbury Gallery in the spring, SHOES: Inside Out strides into Winchester on Friday 24 November 2023. The exhibition will be on display in The Gallery at The Arc until Wednesday 6 March 2024.  

Hampshire Cultural Trust’s exhibition SHOES: Inside Out features footwear from our past, dating as far back as 11 AD to the present. The exhibition explores 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. 

SHOES: Inside Out showcases historic shoes and boots from Hampshire Cultural Trust’s nationally important collection with a selection having been specially X-rayed to see the designs and workings in a new light. These are displayed alongside the corresponding shoe to uncover their construction, developments in design, or reveal an ethereal reminiscence of a life lived.

Co-curator, Tara McKinney Marinus commented: “Highlights from THE Hampshire Cultural Trust collection will be presented through a number of themes; Work, Play, Protect, Identify, Empower, Transform and Aspire, to explore how shoes are a powerful signifier of the wearer, but also how their form and function allows us to explore broader cultural issues.”

Containing around 70 pairs of shoes - the majority of which were made in the 19th and 20th centuries – SHOES: Inside Out also features several very early objects, including a bone skate from the Anglo-Saxon period (10th-11th century) that was found in Winchester and a child’s shoe (c1680), discovered in the chimney of a Hampshire home. 

“The story of shoes is not always straightforward. Conformity to gender stereotypes is blurred, power statements conceal repression, and the utilitarian merges with the frippery,” says the exhibition’s co-curator Claire Isbester.

Key shoe styles from the 19th century through to the present day are represented, along with early 18th century heels, late 19th century moccasins, a Chinese lotus shoe (c1880) and Manchu shoes (dating similarly). 

Other objects on display include a World War I officer’s trench boots, early 20th century clogs and boots, galoshes, waders, callipers, riding boots, dance shoes (including a pair from c.1925 in the flapper style and Gamba ballet shoes) with the second half of the 20th century represented by 1940-50s utility wear, army boots, 1950s stilettos, Brothel Creepers and platform shoes that became synonymous with popular culture in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. 

One visitor to the Basingstoke show commented that the exhibition was “Fascinating, surprising, an amazing collection”. While another said that SHOES: Inside Out was “Brilliant, nostalgic and informative.”

The march of high-end designers (pun intended) is acknowledged by a pair of studded Louboutin stilettos and a pair of shoes made by British fashion icon, Mary Quant. Other famous labels featured in the exhibition include John Galliano, Biba and Liberty.

Visitors are encouraged to wear their favourite shoes to the exhibition, snap a photo using the polaroid camera and add it to a ‘Shoe’ Wall in The Gallery, sharing the story behind their favourite pair of shoes. This collection of personal stories will build and remain on display for the duration of the exhibition. 

SHOES: Inside Out is a free exhibition which opens in The Gallery at The Arc on Thursday 24 November until Wednesday 6 March. For more information, please visit https://www.hampshireculture.org.uk/event/shoes-inside-out.

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