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Boots: The Height of Fashion


The Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice Master of Arts Program at the Fashion Institute of Technology's School of Graduate Studies and The Museum at FIT (MFIT) present Boots: The Height of Fashion. The first exhibition at MFIT to focus exclusively on women's boots, the show, curated by graduate students, highlights holdings from the museums extensive collection of footwear and features 20 pairs of women's boots by some of the most innovative modern designers, including Paul Poiret, Martin Margiela, and Christian Louboutin.

Boots emerged as a modern fashion phenomenon during the last century and evolved to become a staple of the fashionable woman's wardrobe. From ankle-skimming booties to thigh-high platforms, the boot has held a transformative power for women. Boots: The Height of Fashion examines how women's boots have become powerful expressions of sexuality, rebellion, and status. 

1800s boot

Boot 1990s

Boots 1910s

Walking boots by Jack Jacobus, c.1900, England, gift of the Victoria and Albert Museum

Satin evening boots by Christian Louboutin , fall 1994-95, France, gift of Christian Louboutin

Lambskin boots by Paul Poiret, c. 1918, France, museum purchase


The exhibition begins with a walking boot by Jack Jacobus, circa 1900. Considered progressive yet sensible, the walking boot became a wardrobe staple for the on-the-go woman at the turn of the century. This particular boot, however, with its tightly fitted ankle, curved high heel, and red silk lining is more daring and seductive than it is practical. A showstopper in the streets, it exemplified a fashion shift that in turn reflected a change in the social position and status of select women.

The section of the exhibition titled Sex includes five pairs of boots, each of which makes a distinctive statement. A highlight of this section is Christian Louboutin's high-heeled scarlet satin boot, from his fall 1994-95 collection, which conveys sex appeal and powerful femininity with its signature red sole, gold hardware, and passementerie details.

The Rebellion section of the exhibition explores the power of boots as a challenge to the status quo. Featured is a pair of 1963 Anello & Davide boots that were worn by Jane Holzer. The Chelsea boot design was combined with a higher Cuban heel to create a youthful look, and the style was worn by men as well as women. In fact, the Beatles felt that the boots complemented their mod image. This boot, so emblematic of Swinging London fashion, played a key role in narrowing the gender gap in 1960s fashion.

The Status section of the exhibition includes boots by important designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Manolo Blahnik, and Paul Poiret. A pair of peasant-style boots worn by Poiret's wife and muse, Denise, stopped traffic in Paris according to Poiret's biographer Palmer White, and created a buzz when Madame Poiret was photographed wearing them during the couples tour of the United States in 1918. Low-heeled, knee high, simply designed, and crafted of soft lambskin leather, these boots were the height of fashion in the early 20th century.

In addition to showcasing boots from MFIT's collection, Boots: The Height of Fashion includes a special section on the practices involved in choosing, preserving, and preparing boots for exhibition. This behind-the-scenes view of conservation training presents issues and dialogs that arise in the care of museum objects.

The School of Graduate Studies

Students in the Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice MA program in FIT's School of Graduate Studies have collaborated with The Museum at FIT to present Boots: The Height of Fashion. The School of Graduate Studies provides advanced professional education in seven distinctive areas, promoting excellence in the post-baccalaureate study of fashion, business, art, and design. The school offers programs leading to the MA, MFA, and MPS degrees, and is dedicated to advancing research in the creative industries and fostering innovative collaborations that link students and faculty with industry and professional partners worldwide.

A Fashion Museum

The Museum at FIT, which is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, is the only museum in New York City dedicated solely to the art of fashion. Best known for its innovative and award-winning exhibitions, which The New York Times has described as ravishing, the museum has a collection of more than 50,000 garments and accessories dating from the 18th century to the present. Like other fashion museums, such as the Muse de la Mode, the Mode Museum, and the Museo de la Moda, The Museum at FIT collects, conserves, documents, exhibits, and interprets fashion. The museums mission is to advance knowledge of fashion through exhibitions, publications, and public programs. Visit fitnyc.edu/museum.

The museum is part of the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), a State University of New York (SUNY) college of art, design, business, and technology that has been at the crossroads of commerce and creativity for nearly 70 years. With programs that blend hands-on practice, a strong grounding in theory, and a broad-based liberal arts foundation, FIT offers career education in more than 45 areas, and grants associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees. FIT provides students with a complete college experience at an affordable cost, a vibrant campus life in New York City, and industry-relevant preparation for rewarding careers. Visit fitnyc.edu.

The Couture Council is a membership group of fashion enthusiasts that helps support the exhibitions and programs of The Museum at FIT. The Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion is given to a selected designer at a benefit luncheon held every September. For information on the Couture Council, call 212 217.4532 or email [email protected].
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