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Shoes: Pleasure and Pain


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As beautiful, sculptural objects, shoes are powerful indicators of gender, status, identity, taste, and even sexual preference. Our choice in shoes can be aspirational, even fantastical – and projects an image not just of who we are, but who we want to be. Feet are made for walking, but shoes may not be. Featuring extensive new photography, this is a beautiful and authoritative guide to the history and culture of footwear.

Iconic creations by celebrated designers sit alongside masterpieces by unknown craftsmen in this book. Embracing both men’s and women’s footwear, from the Chinese lotus shoe to laser-printed contemporary shoes-as-sculpture, Shoes: Pleasure and Pain engages with the cultural significance of shoes – the source of their allure, how they are made, and the people who buy and wear them.

Contributors from a wide range of disciplines consider subjects as diverse as ballet slippers and fetishism, shoes and ceramics, traditional shoemaking, and the obsessive shoe collector. The book also includes a comprehensive discussion of the history of shoe design, and case studies including Marie-Antoinette’s shoe collection and the footwear of the Maharajas.

Accompanies the V&A exhibition Shoes: Pleasure and Pain, 13 June 2015 to 31 January 2016.


Helen Persson




24.8 x 27.9cm



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  • UK standard delivery £5 (FREE on orders £35 and over*)
  • Europe standard delivery £20
  • Rest of the world standard delivery £30

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About the author

Helen Persson

Helen Persson is Curator of Chinese Textiles and Dress in the V&A’s Asia Department.