From the Smithsonian Collections: Famous Footwear

Famous footwear of the Smithsonian collections, from Chinese foot-binding booties to Dorothy’s ruby slippers

Design by Henry Dreyfuss for Delman Shoe Company, 1929 (Cooper-Hewitt)

There is no limit to the number of places we can look for fresh material to post on the Smithsonian’s many blogs, but still one of the greatest sources sits right under our noses within the institution’s own collections. After looking at shoe design of the past, present, and future, I decided to comb through the Smithsonian archives to see what types of footwear have been worthy of impressing upon our national memory. Below is a selection of some of the most interesting, from a pair of cloth booties design to adorn the bound feet of Chinese women at the turn of the 20th century, to the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in her 1939 performance of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.

The high-top Keds (complete with ball-point pen doodles) worn by child actor Jon Provost, who played Timmy on the television series Lassie, 1957-64 (National Museum of American History)

Judy Garland's ruby slippers for the character of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, 1939 (National Museum of American History)

Shoes for bound feet, made before 1911, when foot binding became illegal (National Museum of Natural History)

Concept design for Nike Air Jordan XIII by Tinker Hatfield, 1996 (Cooper-Hewitt)

Cast iron shoes

Cast iron shoes designed for and worn by a chemist, 18th century (National Museum of American History)

Matchsafe in the shape of a shoe with filigree detail, late 19th century (Cooper-Hewitt)

Slippers for bound feet, 1900 (National Museum of American History)

Design by Henry Dreyfuss for Delman Shoes, 1929 (Cooper-Hewitt)

About Sarah C. Rich
Sarah C. Rich

Sarah Rich is a writer and digital media consultant who previously contributed to's Design Decoded blog. She co-founded Longshot magazine and is the co-curator of the Foodprint Project.

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