These Shoes at Paris’ New Blockbuster Footwear Exhibit Are Definitely Not ‘For Walking’

“When I see a historical film about Marie Antoinette sprinting through the Hall of Mirrors in the Palais of Versailles I laugh to myself as I know it’s not possible,” observed Denis Bruna. Bruna is the curator of new blockbuster shoe show, Marche et Démarche at Paris’ Musée des Arts Décoratifs.

The vast exhibition, which opened this week, charts the history of footwear, exploring its cultural significance from the Middle Ages to right now. Footwear News caught up with him at the show’s opening gala to find out more. So how can he be certain regarding aforementioned historical inaccuracy?

Shoe belonging to Marie Antoinette, 1792 in the Marche et Démarche exhibition at Paris’ Musée des Arts Décoratifs.
Shoe belonging to Marie Antoinette, 1792, in the Marche et Démarche exhibition at Paris’ Musée des Arts Décoratifs.
CREDIT: MAD Paris

Starting point for the exhibition were some shoes belonging to French queen Marie Antoinette and her ilk from the museum’s permanent collection, he said. They were so tiny, it led him to wonder how on earth they got them onto their feet let alone moved about in them.

“But then I realized both the queen and the 18th century aristocracy in general didn’t actually have to walk anywhere,” he explained. “They stayed at home in their palaces.” And if their footwear posed a problem for walking it certainly precluded running.

Iris Schieferstein horseshoes 2006, Marche et Démarche exhibition at Paris’ Musée des Arts Décoratifs.
Iris Schieferstein horseshoes 2006, Marche et Démarche exhibition at Paris’ Musée des Arts Décoratifs.
CREDIT: MAD Paris

The modern day concept of the “curb to restaurant” shoe, the heel is so high that that the short teeter from taxi to swanky eatery is pretty much all the wearer can muster, is also rooted in history, he revealed. He cited some 55-cm high shoes in the show called Chopines, which were worn in 16th century Venice and make Lady Gaga’s footwear look pretty pedestrian.

It was impossible to walk unaided, he said, explaining that wearers needed servants to help them walk in the street. “It was also a way to advertise their social status,” he revealed.

Boots c. 1935, Marche et Démarche exhibition at Paris’ Musée des Arts Décoratifs.
Boots c. 1935, Marche et Démarche exhibition at Paris’ Musée des Arts Décoratifs.
CREDIT: MAD Paris

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