The self and the shoes: fashionable curiosities and identity

Catalani, Anna (2013) The self and the shoes: fashionable curiosities and identity. In: Dressed Bodies Symposium, 17 July 2013, University of Sheffield.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Presentation)
Item Status:Live Archive


This paper is concerned with an aspect of the material culture of fashion, which also happens to be a personal passion. It focuses on shoes, although I am here looking at a very specific category of women shoes: the extreme, ‘impossible-to-wear shoes’. The ‘impossible-to-wear’ is an arbitrary term, which aims to emphasise their unusual design that does not allow us to slot them into an ‘adequate system of classification’ (Baudrillard, 2005: 1).

There have been extensive studies on the ways in which clothes and accessories (including shoes) are used to socially represent and empower (or not) women. Furthermore, although the fashion phenomenon of the extreme shoes is not new, it is only in the recent years that they have become more popular both in the high fashion and social scene. This has opened up the opportunity to understand further the postmodern discourse, which tends to simulate and exasperate the values and principles of beauty, power and status.

Throughout the paper, I intend to define the ‘impossible-to-wear’ shoes and consider the visual statements, if any, made through them, about contemporary society, women, their identity and their femininity. I will argue that the extreme shoes are the products of the society of the spectacle and as such are very seductive and challenging objects: they are contemporary curiosities, which consent the shift between the ordinary and the extraordinary and therefore allow women to step into a visually playful (but not necessarily empowering) fantasy-world.

Keywords:extreme shoes; material culture; fashion
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W213 Visual Communication
L Social studies > L300 Sociology
W Creative Arts and Design > W520 Body Awareness
L Social studies > L216 Feminism
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Architecture & Design > School of Architecture & Design (Architecture)
ID Code:11268
Deposited On:21 Jul 2013 19:14

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