Shoes: Anatomy, Identity, Magic

The Museum at FIT presents Shoes: Anatomy, Identity, Magic, an innovative exhibition that explores our physical, social, and psychological relationship with footwear. On show from September 1 till December 31 2022. Curated by Dr. Valerie Steele, MFIT director and chief curator and Colleen Hill, curator of costume and accessories, the exhibition features more than 300 of the 5.000 pairs of shoes, boots, sandals, and sneakers in the museum’s permanent collection, aka ‘the closet.’

“The ‘embodied turn’ in fashion studies has brought renewed attention to the intimate relationship between body, dress, and sense of self,” explains Steele. “We are inviting visitors to ask themselves, Shoe are you? Hence our three, somewhat mysterious-sounding themes of anatomy, identity, and magic.” The theme of anatomy emphasizes how few shoes are shaped like feet. We stand and move differently when we wear, say, sneakers rather than stilettos. Peep-toe shoes and thigh-high boots also draw attention to different parts of our anatomy.

The theme of identity emphasizes how different shoe styles and brands are thought to express important information about our age, gender, social status, sexuality, and taste. Gucci sneakers send one message about the wearer, Dr. Martens boots another. Shoes are arranged in pairs for visitors to compare and contrast.

The exhibition begins with baby shoes to illustrate how shoes accompany us through the journey of life. This is followed in the introductory gallery by a chronology of shoes and a viewing booth that features clips from films and television shows that explore the symbolism of shoes in popular culture. The themes of anatomy, identity, and magic are then explored in the Main Gallery, culminating in the facsimile of a shoe shop displaying high-fashion shoes, many of which are red. “Red shoes can represent wealth, status, danger, and sex appeal, depending on the context,” explains Hill. Shoes are often “objects of desire,” Steele says, and the shoe shop symbolizes the “power and allure of shoes.”

Book: Shoes: The Collection of The Museum at FIT
The exhibition will be accompanied by a lavishly illustrated book, Shoes: The Collection of The Museum at FIT, edited by Valerie Steele and Colleen Hill, with a preface by Daphne Guinness, published by Taschen.

About the Fashion Institute of Technology
The museum is part of the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), a State University of New York (SUNY) college of art, design, business, and technology that has been at the crossroads of commerce and creativity for 75 years. With programs that blend hands-on practice, a strong grounding in theory, and a broad-based liberal arts foundation, FIT offers career education in nearly 50 areas, and grants associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. FIT provides students with a complete college experience at an affordable cost, a vibrant campus life in New York City, and industry-relevant preparation for rewarding careers. Visit

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