Explore The Style And Substance Of Antique Shoes At The New-York Historical Society

Walk This Way: Footwear from the Stuart Weitzman Collection of Historic Shoes On view April 20 – October 8, 2018

This spring, a new exhibition at the New-York Historical Society explores how shoes have transcended their utilitarian purpose to become representations of culture—coveted as objects of desire, designed with artistic consideration, and expressing complicated meanings of femininity, power, and aspiration for women and men alike. On view April 20 through October 8, 2018, in the Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery at the Center for Women’s History, Walk This Way: Footwear from the Stuart Weitzman Collection of Historic Shoes highlights 100 pairs of shoes from the iconic designer’s extensive private collection, assembled over three decades with his wife Jane Gershon Weitzman.

1 boudoir shoes - 1867 - no 101

Boudoir shoes, 1867. Paris, France Silk, embroidery, metallic thread. Stuart Weitzman Collection, no. 101. Photo credit: Glenn Castellano, New-York Historical Society. These shoes were created especially for the Paris Universal Exposition of 1867. The soles are stamped with the exhibition seal. During the age of European imperial expansion, Western consumers clamored for “exotic” textiles, such as the Turkish gilt-thread embroidery seen on these shoes.

Walk This Way will surprise and delight visitors with its unexpected lens on women’s history through Stuart Weitzman’s unparalleled historic footwear collection,” says Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “Shoes on view range from designs to be worn in the privacy of a woman’s home, shoes that American suffragists wore as they marched through city streets, ‘sexy’ heels that reflected changing norms of female aesthetics, and professional shoes suitable for the increasing numbers of women in the workforce. We are thrilled to be able to offer the public this unique opportunity to explore the private collection of a collector extraordinaire who is also America’s top shoe designer.

2 buttoned boots - 1870s - no 179

Buttoned boots, 1870s, Leather, Stuart Weitzman Collection, no. 179, Photo credit: Glenn Castellano, New-York Historical Society. One of the first American industries to embrace large-scale mechanization, the footwear industry soon grew into one of America’s largest: by 1850, shoemaking was America’s second-largest industry, following only agriculture.

3 lace-up boots - 1900 - no 59

Lace-up boots, ca. 1900, Silk and silk brocade, Stuart Weitzman Collection, no. 59 Photo credit: Glenn Castellano, New-York Historical Society. The late 1800s saw the introduction of machines capable of mimicking even the most intricate hand shoe-making processes, and producing high-quality shoes. By 1900, nearly every American shoe was made in a mechanized factory. One-third of the workers in these factories were women, at a time when women made up less than 20% of the total industrial workforce.

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. Continue reading