Book Review: SHOES

SHOES is just over 120 pages, but it spans the evolution of western shoes from medieval poulaines to modern Louboutins. With such a lot of ground to cover and so little space, this book is more a quick reference guide than a detailed resource or a riveting read. As such, it is an excellent little publication.

The book includes 80 images of shoes from the V&A collection. The photos are not always pretty, but they are detailed and informative. The text is all business with little in the way of fascinating anecdote, but never brief to the point of abstraction. The writers even manage to include glimpses into the politics of fashion through the ages. The beginning of chapter two, “Heels, Buckles, and Bows,” explains how shoes became more elaborate during the reign of James I, describing a court that was “riddled with scandal and disorder and dominated by James’ posturing favourites.” (Leading one to suspect the world of fashion never really changes much.) The volume concludes with a decent glossary, a selected bibliography (for those interested in more information), and an easily navigated index. A nice final touch is a short list entitled “Major UK Dress Collections Featuring Shoes” (a nice thing to have if you’re hopping the pond).

All in all, this is never going to be my favourite shoe book (I’m in it for the romance, you see), but it’s a no-fuss resource and I’m happy to have it on the shelf between Strunk and White and my Dictionary of Fashion.

Lucy Pratt and Linda Woolley, V&A Publishing, 1999
reviewed by G. Stegelmann (originally published in Worn Fashion Journal Issue 8 )

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