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On the day we meet in the V&A’s Research Department, Helen is wearing a pair of navy leather court shoes from Hobbs with a snakeskin effect trim. But her most extravagant pair, she tells me, are – just like Katie Porter’s – by Alexander McQueen. “They’re red high heels, decorated with red velvet ribbons. I wore them to the McQueen exhibition opening at the museum in March,” she says. “A pair of shoes like that really changes the way you walk, and the way you feel. Any shoe can change your movement – they instruct your body.” There is also a strong connection between shoes and the laws of desire. “High-heeled shoes are widely regarded as being among the most erotic items of apparel,” says Fashion Institute of Technology director and chief curator Valerie Steele in an essay in the new show’s accompanying book. The reasons are several. Physical ones include the change in gait – the pushing out of the posterior and the arch of the foot, which some say represents the position it adopts during the female orgasm – while cultural ones include the association of heels with sexual availability. Fashion and advertising imagery over the past 50 years has persistently built upon the notion that heels are powerfully sexy. Carine Roitfeld, the former editor of Vogue Paris, who in her

V&A Magazine Summer 2015

Left: gilded and incised leather and papyrus sandal, Egypt, c.30BCE – 300CE. Below: gold tasselled shoes, made of leather, cotton, silk, silver and gilded silver, India, nineteenth century, photographed in the Nehru Gallery of Indian art at the V&A, 2014

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V&A Magazine — Issue 37  

V&A Magazine, Issue 37, Summer 2015 Style, sex and psychology

V&A Magazine — Issue 37  

V&A Magazine, Issue 37, Summer 2015 Style, sex and psychology