First Look – Shoes: Pleasure and Pain at the V&A

Shoes: Pleasure and Pain – the title of the new V&A exhibition sums up our love-hate relationship with them perfectly! I was fortunate to get a first look at this fascinating exhibition, spread over two floors, and I’d definitely recommend a visit. Sponsored by Clarks and supported by Agent Provocateur and the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers, there are over 250 pairs of shoes on display.

Shoes Pleasure & Pain
The exhibition features shoes worn by celebrities and historical figures – can you guess who these belonged to?
Imelda Marcos shoes
Got it in one – Imelda Marcos! The widow of former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos is infamous for her huge collection of shoes. A famous fictional character enamoured with shoes is Carrie Bradshaw, from Sex in the City. Her shoe closet was the largest thing in her tiny New York apartment.

Carrie's shoes
Three themes are introduced on the ground floor gallery – transformation, status and seduction.

TRANSFORMATION –  these are shoes that magically transform the lives of the wearer, such as Cinderella’s glass slipper fitting only one owner.

The famous red shoes from Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale were featured in a memorable film about a prima ballerina and her struggles.

The red shoes V&A
STATUS – examines how shoes literally elevate the standing of the wearer. This pair of clogs raised their owner above the heat of the hammam but ended up a symbol of wealth and status.

I found these “sitting down” shoes fascinating, they come from India and were only made to manoeuvre short distances, shuffling forwards on your heels.

Christian Louboutin’s red soles have become iconic, ever since he grabbed an assistant’s red nail varnish and painted the base of one shoe with it.

Louboutins V&A
These Manolo Blahnik Tendona shoes also look beautiful, however imagine trying to run for a bus in them. Actually I once ran a race in Guiseppe Zanotti high heels for a Gok Wan show!

Manolo Blahnik
The first floor gallery presents the processes involved in the design and creation of footwear, including sketches and shoe lasts.

Shoes Victoria and Albert
I was particularly taken with these amazing Mojito shoes in the foreground, by British engineer and shoe designer Julian Hakes. Both these and the shoes in the background were created using 3D printing techniques.

Mojito shoes
Are shoes more pleasure or pain for you? Do you have a favourite pair?

– From 13 June 2015 to 31 January 2016
– Tickets are £12 and can be booked online or by phone: 0800 912 6961
– While you’re there, make sure to visit the free exhibition, What is Luxury

V&A, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL

  • This looks incredible! Pleasure and pain is definitely the way to describe my relationship with high heels – adore looking at them, but after a few hours, oooh it’s time to bring out the flats!!

    Lauren xx
    The Lifestyle Diaries

  • Lifeplus1

    What a cool exhibit. Loved looking at the photos. Some crazy styles. Those hammam shoes!?! How do you even…?

  • Made me want to try on that glass slipper!

  • Rah shoes!!!!! I love heels! Love them! Love theeemmmm!! I would wear heels all the time, but here in Canada I would stick out like a sore thumb as it is all about comfy wear 🙁 and I work with children so no heels there either!

    • I see what you mean Holly, I’m a bit of a wimp, I have to confess as I know heels will start to hurt halfway through the evening so if I wear any, I always have backup flats!

  • Those shoes are so cool!
    Melanie @

  • I would love this exhibition!

    • It’s really nicely put together, I loved the history behind all the shoes

  • Corinne C

    I want the glass slippers! Some of these look painful!

    Corinne x

    • I know, there’s quite a skill in walking in some of these!

  • I can’t imagine you would get very far wearing those shoes from India! They would hook into everything!

    Ash | Liakada

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  • Kayleigh Lindstedt

    I can’t wait to visit this exhibition and such a good review too! I’d go just to see the Carrie shoes to be honest!!! Thanks for visiting my blog and your kind comments too, always appreciated!

    Kay xx

    • It’s a pleasure Kay, I always enjoy reading your posts. Carrie’s shoes are so iconic, aren’t they!

      • Kayleigh Lindstedt

        Aww thank you!! Yes definitely 🙂 there should be an exhibition just for the SATC outfits!!!

  • the italian glam

    great review, my dear

    I would love to see this awesome exhibition

    kisses from Italy

    • I hope that you get to see it if you visit, it’s on until January – I just got back from Rome, loved it

  • What a fascinating exhibit, especially the last shoe (with no sole). Shoes are sadly a pain for me. I’ve had several injuries in my ankle (from play & sports) so I don’t want to take risks, even if they look so so nice.

    • I know, I really want to try that last one – the designer is actually an engineer by trade and he worked out that you didn’t necessarily need a sole on high heels. I’m waiting for someone to design a heel that looks good and is comfy!

  • Angie SilverSpoon

    What a fun show!! I love the sentiment behind the glass slipper!
    Lots of love,

    SilverSpoon London

    • Such a beautiful story isn’t it, hope you had fun in Paris!

  • Paola

    Amazing exhibit, I’m shoes-addict!!!!
    Kisses, Paola.


    My Facebook

    • This would be perfect for you Paola, too many to choose from

  • Swati Sharma

    amazing compilation dear…

  • How amazing are these? What a splendid exhibit, our shoe choices really express who we are and your outfit. Thanks for sharing! x/Madison
    Summer Entertaining

    • That’s a very good point Madison, shoes really are an expression of our individuality

  • Jamie RS

    some of the shoes reminds me of lady gaga’s shoes! 😀 thanks for sharing this post 🙂

    Love Peace and Shimmer

    • Yes they wouldn’t look out of place on her – very glad you enjoyed it, Jamie

  • Beauty Follower

    The J. Choo feather sandals are gorgeous!

    V&A museum holds such a great exhibitions.

    I see shoes as pleasure 😉

    Have a lovely weekend!

    • I also see shoes as a necessity, what would we do without them? Wishing you a great weekend too

  • Amazing and unique pairs! Such an interesting place! I love this kind of shoes, like McQueen’s.


    • It’s nice to wear something unique, isn’t it – has spurred me on to wear more unusual designs

  • Stunning selection of shoes! Mythical brands!



    • They are quite a mythical selection that they’ve put together – I was very impressed

  • Shoes can really make an outfit, I love shoes that are comfortable and make a statement. Some of those in the exhibition definitely make a statement, they are so high Lucy x

    • If you know of any comfy ones that make a statement, let me know what brand Lucy – I like Irregular Choice and Poetic License

  • Wow I wanna see whole exhibition! I love seeing unique shoes, not wearing these!

    Furore Magazine

    • I agree, I’d prefer to look at many of these rather than wear them – having said that I got inspired to buy some funky shoes today after visiting the exhibition this week

  • This is undoubtedly the most appealing exhibition I’ve heard of at the V&A for quite some time. I’ve visited many shoe exhibitions abroad before, however I have a feeling this one would trump them all! I love that Carrie’s fictional wardrobe is mentioned here, I hope to visit here at some point and considering it’s open until 2016, I’m sure I’ll make it there for a browse! 🙂

    Gabrielle | A Glass Of Ice


    • Yes and they were showing scenes from Sex and the City featuring the shoes too. Hope you do get to visit Gabrielle

  • I’ve been dying to see this exhibit and this makes me want to go even more! I’m more of a flats girl (I’m tall so tower above everyone anyway) but I love all the beautiful stilettos on display.

    • Same here but since visiting I’ve actually bought 2 pairs of (fairly low!) heels

  • Nina

    Amazing exhibition. xx


  • I do adore a V&A exhibition – they curate with such style!

    • You’re right Emma, they’ve put a lot of effort into the curation

  • These shoes are all so neat, I love the glass slipper



  • Yet another glorious V&A exhibition! I love love love that glass slipper!

    Polly xx
    Follow Your Sunshine

    • Looks like that’s the favourite! It really did catch the light beautifully, and such a magical story. Hope you have found some good wedding shoes

  • stylentonic Constantinos

    shoe addiction! Great exhibition! xxx

    • Yes it would be easy to become addicted to shoes if you stayed in that exhibition too long 😉

  • This looks like such a great exhibition 🙂 Those clogs look crazy painful haha. I would love those glass slippers though, they are dreamy

    Rachel xx

    • Imagine walking in those clogs! The glass slippers seem to be topping the leaderboard

  • At this point, I think I should basically just move into the V&A… this one is on the must-see list 🙂

    • You and me both! Plus I didn’t get time to check out the shop recently but I love it in there too

  • I was at the V&A for the Alexander McQueen exhibition on Friday (which was mind-blowing) and thought I must go and see the shoe exhibition with my daughter – will definitely go now I’ve seen your lovely teaser!

    • I know, the Alexander McQueen one is fantastic! I didn’t realise you were based near London, let me know if you fancy a coffee sometime

      • Just seen this while checking out my Disqus account! I’m in Sussex so not too far away. Hopefully we’ll catch up at WTM 🙂

        • Yes sorry, not the best way to send a message! I’ll be at WTM too so see you there

  • I was invited to the preview, but couldn’t make it at the end. Thank you for sharing the photos! x

    • The preview was pretty ramming but I thoroughly enjoyed it – thanks for stopping by

  • I recognised some of my dreams pair of shoes there!
    I’m defo planning a trip to V&A soon to have a look around 🙂

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  • Great post!This exhibition looks very similar to the “Killer Heels” exhibition that was at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. It was fabulous!

    • I’ve heard great things about the Killer Heels exhibition too, great title

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