I love shoes. Seriously. It borders on obsession. This year has been difficult because travelling from place to place living out of two suitcases has meant I have had to make careful use of my space. My shoe collection sadly, did not make the cut. So instead I obsess over shoes I cannot have. What better place to do this than at the museum dedicated to the Italian shoes genius Salvatore Ferragamo?
The museum is small but at the same time much larger than you would expect considering it is dedicated to shoes by one designer. The museum takes visitors through the birth of Ferragamo’s shoe empire beginning with his journey from Italy to the United States in 1914. It tracks his rise as a renowned shoe designer, but it also stretches beyond Ferragamo to incorporate the overall growth of the fashion industries in both the United States and Italy during this time. There are multiple displays of traditional Italian costumes and clothes from the 1920s, as well as works of art and other displays tracking the changing attitudes towards the body and fashion during the period. For example, the growth of athleticism and closer study of the body in the 1920s contributed to the changing views people had of the physical body and the clothes they wore. The Olympics and phenomenon so common to people today such as sunbathing started to become increasingly popular. Clothes and shoes began to be constructed in standard sizes rather than made to fit the body. It seems insane that for hundreds of years clothes were made to fit the person – off the rack just wasn’t an option.
But back to shoes … The museum has a beautiful collection of Ferragamo’s shoe designs beginning in the 1920s, some of them reproductions of his early designs. My favourites were a pair of elastic spotted, over-the-knee boots reproduced from an article on Ferragamo from 1925. They are the kind of boots that would absolutely make heads turn and would attract a few stares, some of admiration, some of disgust – but maybe that is why I like them so much. There were also some beautiful black and beige suede closed toe shoes with a kind of jagged fan design also from the twenties. Describing them, they might sound hideous but they are in fact beautiful. The 1920s were certainly a golden age for shoes.
Ferragamo’s fashion house continues to be the king of Italian shoe design. If you are lucky enough to own a pair, I applaud you. Sadly I think it will be some time before I am able to make an investment in some Ferragamo boots, but the museum has certainly given me something to daydream about until that day comes! Along with the French, Italy is home to the most talented fashion houses in the world. Valentino, Dolce and Gabbana, Gucci, Versace … Let me know what your favourites are!
Top: Closed Suede Shoes, 1925 (Reproduction)
Photography by Savannah Hayes