These shoes were included in the exhibit because they were part of the Fashion and Surrealism show in 1987/8. They were included to have a then modern piece of surrealist fashion. The shoes are put in this category because they are a still material modeled to look like one’s feet, it is the absurd juxtaposition that one is showing their feet whilst wearing a piece that is meant to hide or cover them up. I think it is very important to include a current piece in a show relating to an art movement, especially one so rooted in the illusive subconscious which may never be understood fully and is an ongoing conversation. I believe that arguably all fashion is surreal, by that I mean to say that the rationale behind the dress is only necessary to warm someone up, otherwise, we could be naked, unless you subscribe to the biblical definition that clothing/fig leaves are G-d’s punishment for Eve eating the fruit. However, the rationale behind fashion is an out of no-where subconscious societal reaction, and style is a personal gut feeling inevitably influenced by society, both of which rooted in some form of sexuality.
The shoes were influenced by Rene Margriette, a prominent surrealist artist. I really thought the shoes would be a Comme des Garcon shoe or something like this, when I saw Cardin I was surprised. It makes sense in the ’80s with a kind of intense show of wealth and excess in sparkles, jewelry, etc., so the shoes are almost more shocking than what was on the runway. To have a pair of unaspiring brown leather feet shaped shoes was not of the mass cultures moment, it didn’t go with the Ralph Lauren look of British royalty or Chanel’s pearls, it fit in with the emerging Japenese brands showing in Paris. This brings up the notion of influence, because yes he had this random surrealist element to his work, yet the leather to me seemed to be attuned to the Japenese designers, like Yohji Yamamoto or Comme des Garcon who used beautiful subdued fabrics.
The shoes were in Exhibitionism in 2019 to show all this and what was happening when the show was put together. Although it must not be ignored that this was a survey show, who knows what was available in FIT’s collection from this particular exhibit in the late 1980s. I would assume that they were picked over other objects because the Surrealism show was front and center walking into the main room and one of three shows mentioned in the blurb on the pamphlet. To me they were a new side to Cardin, they are subversive in their surrealist qualities, one would have to look twice at them, and they went with the piece next to them showing a leather bag with a hand on it. These two represented the human’s physicality in surrealism, while behind sat two lobster inspired dress showing sexuality, a typically unseen, and often ununderstood part of the human condition.