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My daughter's first word was "shoe." It was funny to me that it wasn't "ma-ma" or "da-da" or something more obvious, but I thought at the time that maybe it was a sign she'd become a fashionista with a large collection of shoes. And guess what? She did.
I only wish she were here to see the exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratif, "Marche et Démarches" (Walk and Step), devoted to the history of her first word, the "shoe."
I noticed that most of the visitors were women, who clearly have more interest in shoes than their male counterparts, but what fools the missing men are for not thinking shoes are worth admiring! There were as many men's shoes as women's and each was a work of art as admirable as any painting or sculpture, if not more so.
The exhibition is fascinating and fun from beginning to end, and so expansive that one might become "shoed out," beginning with shoes that are many centuries old, to the crazy Chinese cult of foot binding (I warn you, it's really creepy), to shoes designed for battle, dance, sport, humor, fashion, sex and managing mud and cobblestones more efficiently. You name it, it's there, about 500 shoes and miscellaneous works of art from the Middle Ages to Modern Ages.
The idea for the exhibition came from Marie Antoinette. Not directly, you understand, but from the study of one particular shoe within the museum's collection which belonged to her in 1792. Strangely enough, finding it among the others is tough. It's not very well marked, so don't be surprised if you miss it the first stroll through. Hint: It's in the room that has a string doorway, on the left, in a case among others fairly similar, and the description is on the panel below it. (I had to squat down and try to displace a tour guide [with a sour expression on her face] to move over a bit to see the description and confirm it was indeed Marie's.)
At thirty-seven years old, Marie Antoinette's foot/shoe was tiny — measuring just 21cm (8.26") in length and 5cm (2") in width. This is as hard to fathom for me, with a size 40 (25.4cm, 10"), as it was for the researchers who accounted for the fact that 18th-century women didn't walk much, restricted by their clothing, including their dainty shoes and pampered with servants and transportation at the snap of their fingers. But, is this why their feet didn't grow large? Or were they always restricted, in a fashion like their Chinese sisters?
We questioned as we wandered through the exhibition, that foot binding was torturous, but is it much different than wearing stilettos? Bound feet were considered a kind of status symbol and a mark of beauty, even if painful and mobility limiting. Its subjects were mostly rendered disabled. Fortunately, it's a thing of the past as there are only a few surviving women in China who were victims of the practice. Meanwhile, modern-day designers such as Christian Louboutin have shod women in mile-high stilettos that are a podiatrist's dream as there's a long list of health risks to donning such beauties (see thespinehealthinstitute.com/news-room/). That's the point. In China it was once thought that bound feet were beautiful, just like today we think high heels make a woman beautiful. That's what has to change...our perception of beauty and buying into the myth. Otherwise, we are crippling ourselves for the sake of vanity. This exhibition had us thinking long and hard about beauty vs practicality.
The signature shoe of the show is the Rainbow Sandal, created for Judy Garland in 1938, one of Salvatore Ferragamo's most famous shoe of his career — that you can still buy for a "mere" $2,500! Charlie Chaplin's Tramp shoe is on display as well as various clowns' shoes that must have gotten them a lot of laughs.
My favorite collection of shoe designs were by François Pinet who invented a new type of heel in the mid 1800s (here in France, naturally) made from a single piece of leather, capped in latex making it light. The style was beautifully elegant and sexy. This invention was the foundation for heels going higher, but nothing quite matches his feminine form and practical styles. I could see my own feet in every shoe on display within the cabinet. Pinet still has three boutiques in France should you wish to buy a pair or two — two in the 16th arrondissement and one in Cannes. (Check the site for locations and I warn you: they come at a pretty price.)
The exhibition is on until February 23rd. See madparis.fr/francais/musees/ for more information. And don't miss it, even if you leave the menfolk at home.
LIGHTING UP THE CITY OF LIGHT
The flick of the switch to turn the avenue des Champs Elysées to a warm glow of its trees bathed in red lights for the holiday season happened Sunday at 6 p.m. amid a formidable gathering of Parisians and with the blessing of the Mayor Anne Hidalgo and the agile hand of actress Ludivine Sagnier whose hand held the magic wand. The city closed the famous avenue to all traffic, allowing all us lookie-loos to stand dead center while she counted down the turn of the switch. In that moment, everything turned to red, with tiny blue lights that flicker — lights that are reported to be eco-friendly and to be used for the next five seasons. The lights will be on from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. until December 24th when they will remain on all through the night until the 31st.
Hint: a cool place to dine while enjoying the lights along the Champs-Elysées is Le Drugstore, a glass-walled restaurant at the top of the avenue near the Arc de Triomphe that is as elegant as it gets without breaking the bank. The restaurant, under the supervision of Chef Eric Frechon, is also offering a Thanksgiving Dinner.
For info on more holiday lighting around town, visit parisinfo.com.
P.S. A reminder to French Property Insider subscribers, there will be no edition on Thursday, November 28th, Thanksgiving Day — only one of two days the entire year that we don't publish that Nouvellettre®!
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