The Heights of Fashion: Platform Shoes Then and Now

Exhibition at the Mint Museum of Art highlights more than 100 years of platform styles

Platform shoes are back this spring, but don’t expect to see them on the runway. Opening April 25 at the Mint Museum of Art, The Heights of Fashion: Platform Shoes Then and Now showcases more than 60 platform shoes from the 1930s through the present – a true shoe lover’s delight!
With origins dating back to ancient Greece, platform shoes first appeared in Europe and the United States during the 1930s and 1940s. The popularity of platforms reached its greatest height in the 1970s, when these shoes became associated with a rebellious youth movement that decried societal standards of older generations. From the free-spirited fashions of the 1970s to the trendy footwear of today, platforms have continued their role as fashion statements worn by both sexes.
The Heights of Fashion spans more than 100 years of platform shoes. Ranging from the delicate “lotus bud shoes” of 19th century China designed to emphasize women’s tiny bound feet to the chunky Goth platforms of the 1980s, the shoes on exhibit demonstrate how extreme variations on a style developed in response to different cultural philosophies and concepts of beauty.
The exhibition includes high fashion platform shoes by couture designers that move—sometimes with caution to the wearer—from the fashion runway to the streets. Footwear by Vivienne Westwood, Jimmy Choo and Roger Vivier reveal influential and innovative designs that incorporate modern engineering with vintage inspiration. Household brands such as Candie’s showcase the platform’s traditional thick sole and chunky heel, while unconventional materials such as titanium, chrome and carbon fiber offer an entirely new look in the sleek, yet feminine, designs of emerging designer Ruthie Davis. The platform’s first wedge heel appears in shoes designed by Salvatore Ferragamo, who is credited with transforming platform shoes from casual beachwear to high fashion in the 1930s.

The Art of Affluence Showcases Haute Couture and Luxury Fashions

mpressive works of wearable art will be on display in the special exhibition The Art of Affluence: Haute Couture and Luxury Fashions 1947-2007.

This exhibition presents selections from the Museum’s extensive holdings of haute couture and luxury garments that reflect 60 years of creativity by top European and American fashion designers.

The term haute couture (French for “high sewing”) refers to one-of-a-kind, custom-made garments and is used by fashion firms around the world to describe their high-end lines. Due to their exclusivity and expert attention to detail, these garments can cost upwards of $20,000 per item and are characterized by flair, taste, fine materials and distinctive quality. Additionally, most every haute couture house creates a luxury prêt-a-porter, or ready-to-wear collection, which is classified as luxury clothing.

The Art of Affluence features garments and accessories by renowned designers including Chanel, De La Renta, Dior, Givenchy, Saint Laurent, Valentino and Versace, among others. The exhibition explores the creation of new trends by earlier designers such the French master Christian Dior who premiered his first collection in 1947 Paris which was known thereafter as “The New Look” and Spaniard Cristóbal Balenciaga with his 1960s’ sculptural silhouettes for both day and evening.

Later designers, such as Zandra Rhodes and Gianni Versace, reflect the evolving use of vivid color and bold patterns in their couture designs. A notable Versace item in the exhibition is a gentleman’s ensemble designed for entertainer Sir Elton John, who sold items from his colorful couture wardrobe in 2006 to benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

The Art of Affluence will run through Spring 2010.