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Heavenly Soles: Extraordinary 20th Century…
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Heavenly Soles: Extraordinary 20th Century Shoes

by Mary Trasko

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From the late 1800's to present day. Color photographs of unique, outrageous, and/or famous shoes.
  UniversalCostumeDept | May 22, 2013 |
Trasko defines the subject of her study as "... only the most influential creations, as well as particularly inventive and unusual footwear. The focus here is on high fashion, with relatively little attention to working-class or middle-class shoes, which deserve their own study." And the day that we see a glossy book about those shoes will be the revolution. The reader should be aware the "quite a few fetish models are depicted, for they are among the most awe-inspiring shoes of their era ... ." I don't criticize their inclusion, but adults might want to flip through and decide if they want to explain to little ones why some of the women are oddly dressed, or naked except for boots. The reader should also be aware that shoes are generally limited to English, French, Italian and American.

As a woman who chooses her shoes almost entirely for comfort, this is about as close as I care to get to wearing most of them, but I must admit that they are sometimes gorgeous objects. It is frustrating that so little design effort is put into practical shoes: just because I like to be comfortable doesn't mean that I don't appreciate attractive stitching and clever color combinations. Trasko quotes shoe-designer Robert Vivier as saying that shoe design is "a sculptural problem in which the center is always a void." Generally speaking, I find that craft is better than art if one is going to actually use the thing. Trasko is quite aware of the tension here: as much as she loves high-fashion shoes, she is not blind to the foot problems that extreme styles cause, or the inhibiting effect such shoes have had one women. She celebrates the opportunity to switch among different styles.

The book draws upon many sources: advertising, design drawings, and what appear to be museum shots. As a result, although most of the book is in color, some are in black-and-white if they were shot before color became common. The pictures are generally large enough to show the details. They are placed so that almost all of the detailing, types of heels, for example, and all the designs discussed are illustrated. The text is generally in chronological order with significant detail about changes in design, i.e., the stileto heel. In some cases, pictures of the clothing fashionable at the time is included. My one suggestion for improvement would be to have more pictures like this (publishers just love lengthening books!) Althea Mackenzie's Shoes and Slippers: From Snowshill, one of the World's Leading Collections of Costume and Accessories of the 18th and 19th Centuries did a effective job of this using very small pictures: not a lot of detail, but one gets some sense of the overall effect. I found the text relatively succinct and very clear. There is some discussion of major designers and manufacturers, as well as changes in methods of production.

The book includes a table-of-contents, notes, a bibliography and an index. There is a mistake in the table of contents: the photographic credits are on page 131, not 128. ( )
  juglicerr | Jul 30, 2009 |
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