DRESSED TO IMPRESS
FOOTWEAR AND CONSUMERISM IN THE 1980S
The 1980s is a decade known for its bold fashions: bright colors, sharp silhouettes, cone heels, and high-status sneakers. Fashion in this period was also defined by a wide variety of choices that consumers could make about how they wanted to look. The fact that one could quickly cycle through identities and trends speaks to the fast-paced consumerism of this decade.
Culturally, the 1980s were defined by conservative politics, globalization, and technological innovation. Self-improvement and the pursuit of individual success was strongly encouraged, and fashion was promoted as a way to both achieve and flaunt a successful career, a desirable body, and an enviable lifestyle. Shopping malls and mail order catalogues, as well advertisements in film, television, and music videos encouraged materialism and fed a generation of consumers who were dressing to impress.
November 1, 2023 to March 16, 2025EXHIBITION HIGHLIGHTS
Tokio Kumagai Pumps. Japanese/French, 1980-83.
Footwear of the 1980s was available in a variety of materials, prints, silhouettes and designs. These pastel blue pumps feature circular cutouts which add a post-modern edge.
Nike Air Jordan 1s. American, 1985.
One of the most sought-after shoes in sneaker history, the first Air Jordan marked a profound shift in sneaker culture, and remains one of the most successful partnership between a footwear brand and professional athlete (Michael Jordan).
Maud Frizon boots. American, 1980-89.
Low black boots, popular with punks, goths, mods, rockers, and New Wave artists, were eventually embraced as mainstream style by anyone who wanted to add a fashionable “edge” to their look.
Gucci loafers. Italian, 1980-89.
The Gucci horsebit loafer was associated with an elite, wealthy consumer. A popular choice among executives in the 1980s. By the early 2010s, they had earned the nickname “deal sleds” as worn by ambitious bankers hoping to “close a deal.”
PONY sneakers. American, 1989.
This M-100 PONY, which stands for “Product of New York”, features the high-tops and thick, chunky soles characteristic of most basketball shoes in this era. The use of bright blue and pink is very recognizably 1980s, adding a bold, fashionable twist.
Bally Pumps. Swiss, 1980-89
Fashion in the 1980s was often bold and extremely colourful. Soft pastel shades were hugely popular in the early part of the decade, before deep and saturated hues—such as those on these dark blue pumps by Bally—took over.
Thierry Mugler Apollo Jelly Shoes. French, c.1985
Made of PVC plastic, Jellies were a popular fad in the 1980s, appearing in high fashion magazines and collections by designers such as Jean Paul Gautier and Thierry Mugler. Less expensive, mass-produced versions could be purchased for one to two dollars per pair.
John Fluevog winklepickers. Canadian, 1980-86
Goth style, developed by fans of post-punk gothic rock music, famously wore dark and historicizing fashion. These winklepickers, also called “pikes” were a popular choice.
Rossimoda pumps. Italian, 1985-88.
Although high heels were not appropriate for the office in the 1980s, they were popular as evening wear. This pair of glamorous pumps features gold heels as well as sparkly sequins and beadwork on the vamps.
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The Bata Shoe Museum is located at 327 Bloor Street West, at the southwest corner of Bloor Street West and St. George.
From the St. George subway station (on both the Bloor-Danforth and the Yonge-University lines), exit onto St. George Street. Turn left (walk south) for about 30 seconds and you’ll be at the northeast corner of Bloor Street West and St. George Street. From there, cross the road twice to reach the southwest corner of the intersection, and you’re at the Museum!
From Highway 401
Take the Avenue Road exit and go south to Bloor Street. Turn right onto Bloor Street and continue west to St. George Street. OR take the Bathurst Street exit and go south to Bloor Street. Turn left onto Bloor Street and continue east to St. George Street.
From the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW)
Get onto the Gardiner Expressway and exit at Spadina Avenue. Proceed north on Spadina to Bloor Street. Then turn right onto Bloor Street and go east on Bloor to St. George Street.
Street parking and paid parking lots within walking distance of the Museum may be available. Possibilities include:
The Toronto Parking Authority’s Carpark 58, the Bloor-Bedford Garage: 9 Bedford Road, north of Bloor Street West and two blocks east of the Museum.
The Toronto Parking Authority’s Carpark 205: 465 Huron Street, north of Bloor Street West and one block west of the Museum
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Counting down to the opening of our newest exhibition, The Great Divide: Footwear in the Age of Enlightenment. Do you have your tickets yet?