I recently discovered a number of websites which function as online shoe museums, archives or exhibitions.
These sites contain great resources for designers, and some seriously desirable shoes for footwear obsessives.
Virtual Shoe Museum
Virtual Shoe Museum is an archive of intriguing footwear from recent years. It was founded by Liza Snook in 2005, and the database of styles has increased year-on-year.
You can search for shoes within this site by a number of fields, including Colour, Designer, Material (including Edible!) and Style. The “Favourites” tool allows you to add and store any 50 shoes, and then e-mail them to yourself.
The blog makes for good reading, highlighting new footwear designers’ collections, and providing up-to-date footwear news.
Recommended for: Design inspiration and shoe exhibition listings
Collection highlight: Shoe Earrings High Heels by Sarah Burchill (image courtesy of virtualshoemuseum.com):
Shoe Icons contains magnificent imagery of footwear from as far back as the 18th century. It also houses numerous printed footwear catalogues, brochures and adverts.
Although this resource is Russian-produced, the images and materials in the archive are from many countries around the globe.
The “index” function allows you to select one or more of a number of search fields, so you can look for shoes specifically from a particular time period, country and designer or brand e.g. footwear by Vivienne Westwood, from Great Britain in the 1980s.
Recommended for: Historical research and design resource
Collection highlight: Bound feet shoes and anklet. China, Hubei Province. 19th century:
All About Shoes
The All About Shoes website provides virtual versions of the exhibitions that have been on display at Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto.
These exhibitions provide the sociological context for footwear, as well as information about the shoes themselves. Footwear made and worn by native tribes of the North American continent is an area of expertise.
Videos and teachers resources complement the informative text and imagery provided.
Recommended for: Ethnic hand-crafted footwear and the sociological context of shoes
Collection highlight: “Crow (laced) boots, Slavey, c. 1970”:
Images © 2012 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada
Northampton Shoe Museum
Online access to a portion of Northampton Shoe Museum‘s rich archives is available via the Northampton Borough Council website.
The Museum Collections page allows access to “The history of shoes” – the story of footwear from “Early Shoes” to the present day, presented with photographs and brief descriptions.
Also available are nine “Highlights from our collection” with descriptions and photographs. These include boots made for Tom Thumb: “a famous Victorian midget”, and a boot made for an elephant. The “Shoes from around the world” section features twelve fascinating historical pieces of footwear from around the globe, including a style from Mesopotamia (now Iraq) with an over-sized blue tassel.
Recommended for: Footwear history summarised and curios with interesting stories
Collection highlight: “Queen Victoria’s Shoes” – her satin bridal shoes (image courtesy of The Shoe Collection, Northampton Museums & Art Gallery):
High Heel Shoe Museum
The High Heel Shoe Museum is a website-sized tribute to the sexiest of all shoes. This marvelous online resource was started by Bruce Gray: a shoe-sculptor, to exhibit his work.
This site now contains photographs of footwear from numerous big-name & niche designers: all high-heeled. There are links to e-commerce sites for many of these shoe styles, so you can click through & buy the style you most desire.
Other features of the High Heel Shoe Museum include shoe-themed art, gifts and magazines, and I love the informative video tutorials about how to walk in high heels.
Recommended for: Shoe obsessives and discovering new footwear designers
Collection highlight: “Shoe Fetish 1” sculpture by Bruce Gray: