September 11, 2014

A Museum's Shoe Closet

One of the projects I worked on this summer as an intern at the Denver Art Musuem was assisting with the photography of the museum's remaining shoe collection. Though the textile collection at the museum is quite large, over the years they have deaccessioned most of their fashion collection, including too the accessories collection. The textile department is a textile arts collection, not a fashion collection, and they do not collect historic dress. The department originally did collect costume for many years, but their focus changed. Most of the fashion collection has be sold at auction or donated to other local museums like CSU's Avenir Museum. The Denver Art museum had kept some select clothing or accessory artifacts that have a particular art value or historical provenance. 

The shoe collection used to be much larger but was recently downsized by the new curator when it was moved from an outside storage facility to storage at the museum. There are around five drawers of shoes left, around 40 pairs of shoes I'd say (I don't have the count in front of me currently). I feel super lucky anytime I get the change to work with a historic costume collection, no matter how small or large the collection or the institution happens to be, and was thrilled to be asked to help photograph the shoes! The assistant textile curator and I spent a few hours each day removing the shoes from storage, assessing their condition, photographing the shoes and then putting them safely back in storage. These shoes, the remaining examples from an originally larger collection, may also be deaccessioned soon as the museum decides whether or not they will ever display them. Though a museum's primary goal may not be to display or interpret every object they preserve in storage, it makes sense for them to deaccession items which they think may benefit another museum more than their own. This also frees up more storage for new artifacts they may actually wish to collect. I wouldn't be surprised if these shoes are deacessioned sooner rather than later, but for now we can enjoy a few photographs of these beauties! 

As an intern I did not actually have the security clearance necessary to handle objects in the collection, so my role in this project was to help the assistant curator by setting up our little make-shift photography studio and to actually take the photos while she handled the shoes themselves. Later I asked the curator if I could show you guys some of the photos, as these pretty shoes deserve to be admired!

Black satin with metal bead embellishment, late teens-early 1920's 
Green satin shoes with silver metallic leather details, mid-1920's
Navy blue and white arrow print slingback heels, 1940's-1950's
Ivory satin shoes with gold and silver detailing and rhinestone buckles, late 1920's
You guys....I want these shoes! In every color really, they were so pretty!
Black leather with gold leather accents, mid to late 1920's
I fangirled over these amazing embroidered shoes! Pink satin with multicolored floral embroidery, ca. 1920's
Why don't they make shoes this pretty anymore?! If anyone has an in with Lauren at American Duchess Shoes, tell her to make these repros next! 
Sadly the camera I was using at the museum to take these photos was not the best, I missed my DSLR! I had to do some serious white balancing! The shoes above were certainly the prettiest ones of the group, there were some pretty hideous late 60's square toed bridesmaid looking shoes in there too. Twenties shoes are my favorite (unless you count 1780's shoes I guess...) so I was extra happy to see some beautiful examples! I hope you enjoyed this little peek into the Denver Art Museums collection!

My thanks to the Denver Art Museum and the textile curator for allowing me to share these photos with my readers. 


  1. So gorgeous! The detail on those shoes is just so amazing. As you say, we just don't see that kind of work on shoes today :(

  2. Replies
    1. Of course! Thank you for stopping by! I can't wait to get a pair of your upcoming "Seabury" shoes as they look just divine!

  3. These are utterly, devastatingly, completely gorgeous (*swoon!!!*). What an incredible experience it must have been to work firsthand with such breathtaking examples of vintage footwear.

    ♥ Jessica

  4. Thanks Jessica, it is always a privilege to work with museum pieces, hopefully I get to continue to do so <3


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