Browsing Category


Shoe Makers

I might not be a minor god, but I’m a miniature Imelda, with a conscience. Remember her, the Philipine’s Marcos/monster’s wife, she of the 1060 pairs of shoes? I share the affinity to footwork, but not the urge to consume or collect in her dimensions.

Nor do I share the style – I have never in my life owned or worn a pair of heels,

not even kitten heels. They’re in the way if you have places to explore….

This is more my style:

or this:  not exactly hand made, though.

Reading up a bit on the history of shoemaking, I learned that ancient hunters wrapped their cold feet in skin, and it was an accidental discovery that ashes tanned the skins to leather. It is also claimed (below) that when the lady of the cave asked for yellow, fashion was born…. medieval cottage industries required some extra skills from those involved in cobbling: they needed literacy to keep the books for ordered work and precise measurements so that the shoes fit. War brought an end to that: starting with the napoleonic wars so many boots were needed that shoemaking became mass production. Soon the skill of sewing top to insole was replaced by cheaper gluing methods.

History of Shoemaking

I think shoe designers are creative bordering on artists. Sadly, much of the more visible creativity is now expanded towards poor little rich girls. Since these only have two wrists, two ears, one neck to display their wealth of jewelry, shoes have to be the next platform. For a mere $1675 a Chanel boot provides extra glitter. (The folks at Nordstrom looked at me suspiciously when I photographed them – they seem to have a nose for who would never buy….)

And slippers with a hint of mink guarantee that no PETA eyes will ever fall on them:

Here is a short video that shows the process of boots being handmade, with the assurance that if you use elephant leather they will last 100 years. Reassuring for a woman getting on in age, don’t you agree? It’s fun to watch, though, if only for the alligator skins displayed on racks.

My fall back option: 

Work needs to get done!  (These boots, by the way, are worn by Rena, the owner of the funkiest shoe store in town: Switch Shoes in Multnomah Village. They have a fabulous comfort/look/price ratio. Hold on to your wallets….)



Fabric on Stage

· How fabric makes movement more beautiful ·

IMG_3181 copy

Whether you see someone doing a little jig on the street or you watch the most amazing ballet performance, the appreciation of  people’s movements is often enhanced by the costumes they are wearing. In addition to providing warmth and protection, fabrics have been used throughout centuries to augment certain aspects of human performance, be it on stage, or in the boudoir, on the sports- or the battle-field, in uniform, tribal colors or under one’s flag.

IMG_2674 copy

The dance aspect was driven home to me last summer at the Philadelphia Art Museum which presented a nifty little exhibit on Dance – Movement/Rhythm/Spectacle. Paintings, lithographs and photographs about dance from the museum’s collection depicted costumes and dresses that caught my attention. The cross section below ranges from Toulouse-Lautrec from the portfolio Le Café Concert, Carlos Mérida Dance of the Quetzals, Leon Bakst The Pilgrim for the Ballet Russe’s performance of Le Dieu Bleu; one of the represented photographers was Barbara Morgan who photographed Martha Graham’s company at length.

IMG_2680 copy


IMG_2678 copy

And then there was Loîe Fuller, who knew how to make fabric fly – I just learned about her from indispensable dance critic Martha Ullman West who keeps me on my toes. The short clip below is a marvel.

Fuller was partly responsible for the creation of one of the great treasures of WA, the Maryhill Museum.  I will devote another essay to that jewel eventually. For now, here is a clip of the fabulous 1946 exhibit that is now in their permanent collection, of French fashion on small mannequins, all the fashion I am willing to mention in the  context of fabrics. I cannot recommend a visit of the museum strongly enough. Eclectic only begins to describe it.