Miss AP's Diary

An Exquisite Torture: A Night at the V&A

An Exquisite Torture: A Night at the V&A

“The dress code on the invite read: ‘Extreme Footwear’…”

Anyone who has ever experimented in any of the following will know that pleasure and pain go together like whips and tassels, spanking and sudocrem, hot wax and smarting skin:

– 48 hour parties
– Shibari bondage
– Vindaloo
– Marathon running
– Very high very expensive designer shoes

It was the latter that we celebrated the other night at London’s fabled Victoria and Albert museum, where the great and good of London’s fashion industry gathered for the unveiling of ‘Shoes: Pleasure and Pain’, the first exhibition of its kind in the museum.
Over 200 pairs of shoes – from three-inch long ‘golden lotus’ slippers worn by Chinese courtesans to the Vivienne Westwood platforms that toppled Naomi Campbell in 1993 – are on display, chosen by curator Helen Persson for their ecstatic agony.

The dress code on the invite read: ‘Extreme Footwear’. As I approached the museum in my cab I saw several women crouched behind phone boxes and bins struggling to get into theirs – rather undignified if you ask me; painful shoes require taxi fares. I wore my Charlotte Olympia Bellatrix heels and glided past the fashion victims to make a beeline straight for the erotic section of the exhibition: cordoned off behind a thick velvet curtain, it displayed the most titillating creations of the shoe world on little velvet plinths.

There were David Lynch’s sheer-soled pumps with heels so high and spiky that they rendered the wearer unable to do anything but crawl along the floor. There was a pair of Victorian ‘Fetish’ boots, tightly buttoned to the knee and with a dangerously curved heel to peek out beneath layers of petticoat. And in pride of place there was the Agent Provocateur marabou mule, in rush-of-blood red, as fluffy and titillating a shoe as ever there was.

Did you know that the reason the mule is historically considered to be an unmitigated turn-on, is because the shape of the female foot when attempting to keep the darned thing on mirrors the shape it makes when the toes are curled back in the throes of an orgasm? Men are unusual creatures indeed.

In fact, it was the men, not the women, who came out as the bizarre beings in this exhibition. Sure, it’s mainly women who shoehorn themselves into 10-inch crystal platforms, slippers made of human hair and high wooden stilts to protect their dresses from the mud, but it’s men who came up with the ideas in the first place. The male mind is a lot more twisted than I perhaps had given it credit for. The one man who stuck in my head after the exhibition – after the champagne fuzz had worn off and I’d treated myself to a spa pedicure after too much dancing on the hard tiled floors – was Lionel.

Lionel Ernest Bussey was an ordinary businessman from London, who upon his death in 1969 it was discovered had an extraordinary collection of almost 600 pairs of ladies shoes. Most were fairly ordinary, from high street stores like Dolcis; almost all were high heels. The man devoted his entire life to acquiring; caring for, and staring at women’s shoes, and in his will he left the whole lot to the museum.

He may never have known the pain of those shoes, but he surely must have known unbounded pleasure.


Posted Jun 17, 2015