Shoes in recent years have culturally transcended their utilitarian purpose to become an object of desire and deliberation, calling up abstract considerations—like the freighted meanings of femininity, power, domination, and aspiration—for both women and men alike. Walk This Way: Footwear from the Stuart Weitzman Collection of Historic Shoes highlights examples from the shoe designer’s extensive private collection, assembled over three decades. The exhibition considers the story of the shoe from the perspectives of collection, consumption, presentation, and production with more than 100 of shoes on view. The exhibition will explore larger trends in American economic history, from industrialization to the rise of consumer culture, with a focus on women’s contributions as makers, designers, and entrepreneurs. Coordinated by Valerie Paley, vice president, chief historian, and director of the Center for Women’s History, with Edward Maeder, consulting curator, and Jeanne Gardner Gutierrez, curatorial coordinator.
The exhibition catalogue, Walk this Way: Footwear from the Stuart Weitzman Collection, is available at the NYHistory Store.
Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Seymour Neuman Endowed Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor.
A selection of over 100 pairs of shoes from the designer-entrepreneur’s collection is on view for the first time.
A new exhibition at the New-York Historical Society explores how shoes have transcended their practical purpose and become objects of desire and expressions of femininity, power and aspiration for women and men alike.
On view through October 8, Walk This Way: Footwear from the Stuart Weitzman Collection of Historic Shoes highlights 100 pairs of shoes from the designer’s private collection, assembled over three decades with his wife, Jane. Weitzman sold his shoe company to Coach for $574 million in 2016.
The exhibition considers the story of the shoe from the perspectives of collection, consumption, presentation and production. It explores larger trends in American economic history, from industrialization to the rise of consumer culture, with a focus on women’s contributions as producers, consumers, designers, and entrepreneurs. As Weitzman says in the exhibition catalogue, shoes “tell an almost infinite number of stories. Stories of conformity and independence, culture and class, politics and performance.”
Among the exhibition’s highlights are shoes of historic value that have survived the years to tell stories of the past, such as a pair of pink silk embroidered boudoir shoes created especially for the 1867 Paris Universal Exposition that reflected Western consumers’ clamor for “exotic” textiles in an era of European imperial expansion. Family heirlooms, such as satin bridal slippers or baby shoes, serve as personal mementos while demonstrating the implications of collecting. The exhibition also includes artifacts from the New-York Historical Society’s own collection, including brass and bronze shoe buckles from a Revolutionary War officer’s shoes (1760-83) that were excavated in Washington Heights, and a pair of leather child’s shoes (ca. 1904) that were recovered from a victim of the tragic General Slocum steamship fire.