Musée des Arts Décoratifs explores the relationship between fashion and body


The MAD-Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris continues its exploration into the relationship between fashion and body with ‘Marche et démarche‘. The exhibition investigates how the shoe is functional to different ways of life and walking, from the Middle Ages to the present day, in both Western and non-European cultures.
‘Marche et démarche’ display approximately five-hundred objects, including shoes, paintings, photographs, art objects, films and advertisements from public and private collections.

cover image: Iris Schieferstein, Horseshoes, 2006, Berlin, Iris Schieferstein © MAD Paris.
Photo: Hughes Dubois.

The subject of the exhibition arose from the study of one particular shoe within the museum’s collection, which belonged to Marie-Antoinette in 1792. Measuring just twenty-one centimeters in length and five centimeters in width, it seemed implausible that a woman could put her foot into such a tiny shoe. Research revealed that aristocratic women in the 18th century, and women of the ‘Haute bourgeoisie’ in the 19th century actually walked very little, and their restricted mobility was such that their shoes were, in effect, not made for walking.

The exhibition opens with an analysis of how we walk in our daily lives, from childhood to adulthood, in Europe, Africa, Asia, and America. From the fifteenth to the nineteenth century, we can trace how certain environmental factors, such as irregular or muddy ground, constrain
people’s ability to walk, requiring the use of specially adapted shoes.
In France under the Occupation, scarce resources resulted in the use of wooden soles that made the wearer’s step difficult and noisy. The diversity of forms that shoes can take is surveyed through a study of pieces with flat soles, high heels and platform heels, each of which has a direct impact on the comfort of the shoe. The exhibition also looks at footwear for activities such as sport, dance, and military marching. Clown shoes and footwear belonging to Charlie Chaplin are displayed alongside with “magical” shoes, such as the Greek god Hermes’ winged sandals or the folkloric seven-league boots.
The exhibition closes with a selection of contemporary shoes with extreme designs that make walking difficult, if not impossible. What motivates designers like Benoît Méléard, Noritaka Tatehana, Masaya Kushino, Alexander McQueen and Iris van Herpen – more artists than traditional shoemakers – to push the boundaries of functionality and make the wearer immobile?
‘Marche et démarche’ launches a new and surprising light on a daily object that we thought we knew.
Curated by Denis Bruna, ‘Marche et démarche’ is on view until 23 February 2020.


above: Shoe belonging to Marie-Antoinette,1792 Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs © MAD Paris Photo: Christophe Dellière
below: Women’s shoes, c.1630 Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs © MAD Paris
Photo: Jean Tholance


Women’s sandal, c.1942 Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs © MAD Paris. Photo: Hughes Dubois


Benoit Méléard, Hommage à Calder shoe, “O” collection, 1999, Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs © MAD Paris. Photo: Hughes Dubois


Iris van Herpen and Jólan van der Wiel, Magnetic Motion shoe, Ready-to-wear collection, spring-summer 2015, Amsterdam, Iris Van Herpen © MAD Paris. Photo: Hughes Dubois

Marche et démarche
temporary exhibitionuntil 23 February 2020
MAD-Musée des Arts Décoratifs
107, rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris


Pair of boots, c. 1935, Paris, Falbalas collection © MAD Paris / Photo: Hughes Dubois

Images courtesy of MAD Paris



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