Vivienne Westwood Shoes Exhibition, Durham, July 2011

(Wearing: Vivienne Westwood Worlds End ‘Shirtwaister’ dress, VW Gold Label ‘Bag’ boots, VW ‘army’ belt)

Speaking of my shirtwaister dress on Sunday, this photo here shows me wearing it for the first time to the Vivienne Westwood shoe exhibition in Durham. I was actually very ill that day and spent the entire journey drugged up in the back of the car, hobbled around the exhibition, then crawled back into the car. This was also the day before I started on the steroids hence why I look so unbloated, I can’t wait until the course is finished. Anyway you know me I just slap a smile on things and there was no way I was missing out on this. So I made like Dame Viv herself and tarted up my knee strap with a flying penis.

The exhibition was displayed in the beautiful Bowes Museum, there were plenty of other wonderful things to see but I wasn’t up to seeing them, it would be lovely to visit again.

It was a gorgeous sunny day and the grounds too were picture perfect. The shoe gallery was fairly small but large enough to have a display through the years of Westwood’s career. I was really frustrated that there was no fore warning that photography was not permitted or I would have applied ahead for permission, hence all the photo’s were sneakily taken via my BlackBerry and my mums iPhone. They are not great photo’s by any means but these are the best selection, I have uploaded the entire album onto my Facebook page.

The exhibition started in chronological (ish) order right up to the latest S/S runway show. Westwood is one of the only designers to have incorporated shoes an equal part of the design, with Vivienne you are presented with an entire look.

Hammerhead trainer ‘Pirate’ 1981, Brocade hammerhead boot ‘Savage’ 1982, Pirate boot ‘Pirate’ 1981 – I was really disappointed that this wasn’t an original Pirate boot from 1981 but a reproduction and yes I do realise I am probably the only person in the world to notice that!

Buffalo sack boot ‘Buffalo’ 1982, Anglophillia sack boot ‘Anglophillia’ 2002 – in some instances the shoes were not arranged chronologically but with the primary and secondary evolution of the design. Here the original 1982 Sack boot is presented with its contemporary design of ten years later. Almost another decade on this design is still available from Westwood and is worn by myself in the above image.

Witches 3 tongue trainer and shoe ‘Witches’ 1983

Apollo wing shoe ‘Pagan I’ 1988, Rocking Horse ballerina ‘Harris Tweed’ 1986 – as with the Sack boots the rocking horse wedge heel can be seen from two separate collections, the Greek influenced ‘Apollo’ winged shoe and the ballerina ribbon lace shoe.

Close up of the Apollo wing shoe

Penis shoe ‘Erotic Zones’ S/S 1995

Tolie print boot ‘Les Femmes’ S/S1996

Biba shoe ‘Le Flou taile’ A/W 2003

Can shoes ‘Ultra Femininity’ S/S 2005

Can shoe close up

Brocade Hammerhead shoe ’56’ S/S 2008

Toe print boot Man A/W 2008

Gold Slipper Man S/S 2007

Oxford shoe ‘AR’ S/S 2006

Scribble boot ‘I am Expensiv’ S/S 2007

-I have two belts made up from sections of the fabric from these boots, it is my favourite VW print

Tiger Satyr ankle boot ‘Vive la Cocette’ A/W 2005

Snake shoes Man A/W 2005

LV Boot ‘Vive la Cocotte’ A/W 1995

Embroidery boot ‘The Only One’ S/S 2011

The exhibition was a wonderful chance to get up close to some of these amazing creations, the early pieces were especially marvelous to see in detail. There weren’t as many shoes on display as there was at the original exhibition in Selfridges which was a shame and the two pairs of fur boots were put so high up you couldn’t see them which was frustrating as there were plenty of empty cases lower down.
The exhibition will be traveling all over the world so keep your eye on the Vivienne Westwood Facebook page for updates, you wouldn’t want to miss it I assure you. Even if you are not a huge Westwood fan I think anyone with a remote interest in fashion and design would find such a retrospective of real value. Being able to watch the progression of design, experimentation with themes, textures and materials all emerge before your very eyes.
Perhaps because I have so much experience with galleries and curatorial matters I pick up on these things, but I always find modern exhibitions some what lacking in information. There were boards of text to read at the entrance to the exhibit but of course not many people have the time, inclination or ability to stop and read them all. Making exhibitions more interactive and user friendly is something I have been involved with for the past few years and am really passionate about, I always want everyone to know absolutely everything! Over hearing some peoples comments it really hammered home just how important education is, it isn’t all about wondering around looking at pretty things! I heard two ladies discussing how all the shoes looked differnt sizes, ‘but how can they all be Vivienne’s shoes?’ one exclaimed, they wouldn’t fit her. I think they were under the impression that they were all Vivienne’s personal shoes that she wore. Others I heard joking ‘are these the shoes she couldn’t sell’, ‘surely no one could actually wear this shoe’ and so on. Usually I would have offered my Dr Pearl words of wisdom but doing this in the past in museums has ended in me giving tours so I keep schtum!

Before the long drive home we ended the day with a pit-stop in the Museum cafe, which was rather disappointing. All the meals were only available very early in the day – with no warning of this on the way in, so due to all my food allergies the only thing I could eat was a bowl of soup and a drink of water. I forget the flavour now but it was really awful. The fabulous spread you see here is the afternoon tea my parents ordered which too looked much better than it tasted. Apparently everything was fairly nice except the rice-crispy cakes which had been made with really cheap cooking chocolate and they were warm, urgh. You also only got half a scone each, tut, tut but I see where the Museum is making its profit! The service was also very slow. We had to stop off instead at the Costa Coffee on the motor way so I could get something proper to eat and drink. If you are planning to visit the Museum I would recommend taking your own picnic and eating it out in the grounds, taking in the stunning view.
The gift shop only had a small selection of memorabilia for the exhibition, which was a pity as the clothing retrospective that was on in Sheffield a couple of years ago had a fantastic selection. All on offer was the ‘Vivienne Westwood Shoes’ book, which I already had and I thoroughly recommend. Along with two note books in classic Westwood prints ‘Squiggle’ and ‘Union Jack’, I couldn’t leave with out a Squiggle one.
The only other comment I would make is that the museum website was slightly misleading as it stated the exhibit was free – which it was, but only when paying to enter the main museum. There were a lot of people not expecting this and one family behind me decided they couldn’t afford to go in. I think this is a terrible shame and most museums are free so, I know that funding is scarce but fees are usually bulked up by gift shop and cafe takings on top of government funding and donations.
All in all it was a fantastic opportunity to see some Westwood outside my own closet, I can only wish one day an entire permanent Westwood museum will be opened – should they ever need a curator they know who to call.

Don’t forget to check out the full album on my Facebook page!

16 thoughts on “Vivienne Westwood Shoes Exhibition, Durham, July 2011

  1. Ahhh that's awful they didn't state about the fee!

    I hope the rather marvelous selection of shoes made it all worth it- they're gorgeous!

    Florrie x

  2. That is a shame about the prices. It's usually the other way round – pay for the exhibition itself and get free entry to the museum – but then I suppose that very much depends on how the museum is funded in the first place. If this one is private (doesn't it have something to do with the Queen Mum's family?) then you can't really blame them for charging an entry fee. They aren't cheap places to run!

    This is probably going to be as silly a question as the women were asking but here goes…the LV boot, can it actually be worn or is it more of a design led piece? The proportions are crazy.

    I really love the toile boots.

  3. Thanks for the sneaky pix Pearl, I'd do the same! Thought of you when I opened an eBay parcel this morning with yet another pair of VW Melissa's – had to put my "new" gold Lady Dragon's on straight away. You're so brave going out when you feel so ill. Hope the steroids are kind to you:)) xoxo

  4. So many clever shoes! I agree that there often is a better way to impart information in exhibits.

    Don't you look fantastic in the dress.

  5. Firstly, loving the dress in the last post, you look magnificent! And what an exhibition – you definitely deserve the call if there is ever a permanent Westwood museum for sure! Really love all the toile de jouy stuff in her work. xx

  6. I hope you submit this post to IFB links ala mode- what an incredible exhibit and I am so stoked you are sharing it with us.

    I'm sorry to hear you weren't feeling good but glad it didn't stop you from seeing this- hope you are back up to tippy toppy and feeling better soon.

    And you rock Westwood like no other.
    the Citizen Rosebud

  7. Oh Pearl, the first pic is my favourite of you! you're smile is soooo sweet and you know, the dress is fantastic and looks fabulous on you!! you're shining from the in- and from the outside ÔÖÑ

  8. Hi my dear-wow, what stunning photos and a very good review of the exhibition too, it sounds totally amazing! So sorry to hear you've not been well again, take care xxx

  9. I'm sorry to hear you're having a bad time at the moment, I hope the current course of steroids works and you start to feel better soon xx

    I love listening to people in exhibitions like that. I went to the Sixties V&A one a few times (to say hello to my frocks) and loved just hanging around and listening to the interesting or idiotic things people came out with. I also took great pleasure in ranting loudly about Mary Quant whilst showing friends around.

    I suspect I am quite irritating 😉

    One day, you will start your own museum. That's my plan too!!

  10. I saw this or another exhibition when it was in Selfridges(?) in London, I made a special trip ! Best thing I ever did it truly is so amazing. I loved how poor condition some of the shoes were in as you could tell how they had been loved and worn to death. I feel so sad for that family who didn't get to see it because of the cheeky price advertising. That is a shame ! Molly xo

  11. Pingback: Vintage Vivienne Westwood Aqua Shoes | Fashion Pearls of Wisdom

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