Shoes: Pleasure and Pain

11 June - 9 October

Another major fashion coup for this summer, the Museum is the only UK venue outside London that will stage this exhibition before touring internationally to the USA and China.

Organised by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London it will display more than 200 pairs of historic and contemporary men’s and women’s shoes by 70 named designers, including Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo, Christian Dior and Prada, many from the V&A’s unrivalled collection. 


Exploring the agony and the ecstasy of footwear throughout 2,000 years of history, it will also examine the elation and passion they can arouse in the wearer.  

The exhibition will be divided into five specific themes:

  • Transformation – will present shoes that are the things of myth and legend        
  • Status – will reveal how impractical shoes have been worn to represent privileged and leisurely lifestyles        
  • Seduction – shoes representing an expression of sexual empowerment or a passive source of pleasure        
  • Creation - how they’re constructed, the beautiful craftsmanship, supply and demand        
  • Obsession - the joy and fascination of collecting/owning/wearing

While the show will feature shoes worn by or associated with famous icons including David Beckham, Sarah Jessica Parker, The Honorable Daphne Guinness, Queen Victoria and Kylie Minogue, it will also explore extreme footwear such as tiny 19th Century lotus shoes made for the Chinese tradition of foot binding. 

As the shoes will be exhibited thematically, not chronologically, each section will be a visual cornucopia of different shapes, styles, materials and colours. They are presented as very beautiful objects, many telling fascinating stories.

We'd love to hear your experiences of the Shoes: Pleasure and Pain exhibition when you visit. Please share your photos and thoughts on social media using #VAMShoes

Extraordinary Shoes
22 August, 10.30 – 4.00
Be inspired by this exhibition and create your own extraordinary shoes using card and a range of collage materials. Children are welcome to bring an old shoe and transform this too. Children must be accompanied by an adult, for whom normal admission applies. 

Heavenly Heels – Shoe Clips in Fabric & Feathers 
8 October, 10.00 - 4.30, £65.00 Adults £62.00 Friends of The Bowes Museum, inc light lunch and museum admission
Join tutor Claire Spooner for a fun and relaxed workshop. You will make three pairs of fabulous shoe clips using three different techniques with feathers, fabric and ribbon. Enjoy a creative day which includes a light lunch and access to the Shoes: Pleasure and Pain exhibition. There is a small amount of hand-sewing, but no experience required. Students might like to bring a pair of shoes as inspiration for their designs. Click here to book>

Banner Image - Roger Vivier for Christian Dior @ Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Right-hand side image 1 - Jimmy Choo Abel Anthracite Lamé Glitter Shoes
Right-hand side image 2 - Salvatore Ferragamo sandals © Victoria and Albert Museum, London