The oldest form of European footwear found thus far is from a shepard who died in the Upper Meadows of the Tyrolean Alps about 5,200 years ago. The footwear was a semi-tanned leather shoe over string socks stuffed with grass. I believe the grass was supposed to cushion and insulate, but given that it looked more stick-like than grass-like, I can’t imagine it would have been very comfortable.
High heels were the privilege of the upper class, as it showed that they did little work. Heels were popularized in England by Queen Elizabeth the First (1558-1603), to bring her short stature to a level more imposing for a royal. These remained in fashion for the next two centuries, which is where the phrase "well-heeled", meaning well to do, originated.
One of the special exhibits going on during my visit to the Bata was "Every Step a Lotus: Shoes in the Lives of Women in Late Imperial China". In China, a young girl’s feet were bound about age 5 or 6. Binding the feet resulted in shortening the length of the foot; reshaping the sole and reducing the width of the sole. A woman’s body weight was then born on the heel (now almost parallel with the long bone of the lower leg); the third and fourth toes (which were folded under); and the tip of the first metatarsal. As a result, a woman’s hip and thigh muscles grew strong, as they directed her movements. Her lower leg between the knee and ankle atrophied from lack of use.
"Golden lotus" feet in China denoted women of high status for centuries. Though the true origins of the tradition of foot-binding is not known, theories range from an empress that had cleft feet to dancers binding their feet to suggest the buds of a lotus. A husband’s success was shown by his ability to support the large number of servants required for his wife’s inability to work. I had heard about foot binding but had not realized the extent to which a woman’s feet were mutilated. It was truly painful to look at the beautifully embroidered shoes and to read what was done to someone’s feet so they’d be forever doll-like in size.
Famous shoes on display include Olympian Michael Johnson’s gold running shoes, shoes belonging to Imelda Marcos, Princess Diana, Elton John, Marilyn Monroe, and Bob Hope.
Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM. Thursdays, 10:00 AM-8:00 PM. Sunday, 12 Noon-5:00 PM. The museum is closed on Mondays except in summer.
Admission is $6.00 (Canadian) for adults, $4.00 for students and seniors, $2.00 for children ages 5-14, and $12 for families. The first Tuesday of every month admission is free.
Results 1-5of 5 Reviews
Belfast, United Kingdom
August 20, 2007
From journal Toronto - a Perfect City in Summer
May 12, 2003
A personal highlight (although not necessarily "fun" as such) is the compellingly repellent exhibition of (and background explanation to) the Chinese "art" of footbinding and the tiny little shoes which were the badges of the crippled Chinese ladies who qualified to wear them (and none could expect to make an eligible match without). Though the slippers are beautifully stitched and undeniably dainty at about 3 inches long, the practice of footbinding, which lasted into the 1900s, was as cruel a torture as you can imagine. Before a girl could even walk (and certainly before the foot bones hardened), her toes were systematically bent and bound under and into the ball of her foot and, in order to straighten the foot and flatten the instep, a stone was put on top to break the it. Take another look at those tiny shoes - still think they're cute?
For kids of all ages, lighter diversions are to be found in the rock and pop exhibition - with examples from the shoecloset of Elvis, Elton John, Marilyn - and sportsmen such a McEnroe and Johnson. There was a rumour from the staff that they were taking receipt of a moon boot but there's been no sign of it since.
The exhibits are generally well laid out and marked with humorous and informative detail, and you can learn all sorts of details about the history and praticality of shoes plus a biology lesson of the anatomy beneath your knees.
For kids, there is sometimes a quiz to complete as you wander round the museum, and for grown ups there is a gratifyingly regular number of rest chairs (as you'd expect from a place dedicated to your feet).
Closed Mondays (and admission is free on the first Tuesday of the month) - take care that there are often school parties midweek so that a weekend visit can be actually be quieter than you'd expect. For more, see www.batashoemuseum.ca.
From journal Cool top 10 Toronto sights
June 9, 2002
From journal Of Mounties and Maple Leaves
by Frances Spiegel
London, United Kingdom
July 2, 2001
The gift shop's shelves are lined with books relating to the history of shoes: there are simple books for younger readers as well as sophisticated books for more advanced readers.
Posters, silk scarves, diaries and shoe-related ornaments will also make excellent gifts.
From journal Canada, Ontario, Toronto : Bata Shoe Museum
If you're interested in shoes and fashion history then this is the place to visit. The Bata Shoe Museum is one of Toronto's newer museums, housing over 10,000 shoes and shoe-related objects, including the personal collection of the Bata family. The collections cover some 4,500 years of history.
Before you enter the museum just take a couple of minutes to stand on the opposite side of the road and survey this unusual building. It was designed by Raymond Moriyama who received a City of Toronto Urban Design Award in 1995. Moriyama's futuristic five-story structure resembles a lidded shoebox. It is more like a large sculpture than a building.
The museum's permanent exhibition - All About Shoes - examines 4,500 years of footwear history: early methods of manufacture, how footwear developed and its place in society. The exhibit includes an impressive selection of Chinese silk shoes, haute couture pumps as well as an animated display of celebrity shoes in the "Star Turns" miniature theatre.
The hands-on exhibition is popular with all visitors, young and old alike. Interactive displays explore the history of shoe and boot making, including a comprehensive feature on the role of shoes in weddings, funerals and religious ceremonies from virtually every culture in the world.
The "Footprints in the Past" display is almost creepy! What was our planet like 4 million years BC? Who lived here? How did they live? You can see a plaster cast of the first human footprints discovered in Africa. It is believed to date back to 4 million years BC.
As you explore the museum the question will arise: Why have generations of Chinese women chosen to bind their feet?
This temporary exhibition (running through to 14 January 2002) honours the Year of the Snake. It explores the lives of Chinese women, showing the tools and accessories for making shoes and binding feet, together with the beautiful, tiny Lotus Shoes.
Shoes belonging to the rich and famous enjoy a very special pride of place. Queen Victoria's satin shoes with matching gloves and silk stockings, reminders of a bygone age, compete for your attention with John Lennon's Beatle boot and Elvis Presley's blue and white patent leather loafers, to name but a few.
Native American footwear is particularly well represented with examples gathered from Lapland, the Northwest Territories, Siberia, Greenland, Alaska and Labrador. The history of Canadian shoe-making is explored through a collection that includes moccasins, fancy dress, working shoes, military boots, in all a selection of over 200 items.