On Sunday my mum and I had a bit of a girly day out and went to visit The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle to see the 'Shoes: Pleasure and Pain' exhibition that's currently on. It was organised by the V&A and shown there last year, and has stopped off in the good old North East for a while before going on an international tour. Sort of like Beyoncé.
I was gonna write about this in Monday Musings but once I got started I realised I had so many photos and so much stuff I wanted to write about that it would've taken you until next Monday to finish reading it... seemed a better idea to divide and conquer.
History of The Bowes Museum
If you're from the North East of England you'll probably already have been to The Bowes Museum and know all about it. If so, feel free to skip this paragraph. If not, here's a potted history for you. The Bowes Museum is a purpose-built museum (meaning it's always been a museum, rather than a stately home or another type of building that was converted later on) that was built between 1869 and 1892 by John and Joséphine Bowes.
The couple were keen supporters of the arts (Joséphine was a Parisian actress and amateur painter) and decided to create a museum in the North East, then spent more than 10 years collecting approximately 15,000 objects display in it. They basically spent their entire fortune, as they weren't able to have children and didn't have anyone to leave their money to, setting up the Museum and building it's amazing collection so that 'common' people could enjoy and experience things that only the upper classes could ususally see or afford to own.
As you only get admitted to the 'Shoes' exhibition for an hour (tickets are sold in specific time-slots) we had a little time to kill and went to the cafe. We had a little look through the information books while we had our coffee/tea and shared a teacake.
Because we're rockstars, us Railton ladies.
The 'Shoes: Pleasure and Pain' Exhibition
The exhibition itself was really interesting, probably even more so than I had expected. They have examples of different kinds of footwear from all around the world, and some of them are hundreds of years old. Some had belonged to, or been worn by, famous people like Elton John, Kylie Minogue and even Queen Victoria, and they even had the Swarovski crystal pair that were made for Disney's 2015 movie remake of Cinderella.
Probably the most interesting pairs were the Chinese shoes made for ladies with bound feet which were unbelievably tiny and more resembled doll shoes, and the Geta, which are the ridiculously high clog-type shoes with heavy wooden soles traditionally worn by the Oiran (Japanese courtesans). Both of these types of footwear are incredibly uncomfortable to wear and near impossible to walk in, and as such reveal a woman's status as she needs to have maids to help her and she must walk incredibly slowly, making sure that everybody notices her.
In the middle of the exhibition, there's a looped video playing that shows the entire process of making a shoe from scratch interspersed with interviews of shoe designers and shoemakers like Manolo Blahnik, who was predictably opinionated and amusing, and Christan Louboutin. It was so interesting to get to see the shoemaking process, which was really quite incredible and much more complicated than I'd ever thought. I suppose it's probably not something I've actually thought about much before, which is strange considering we wear shoes nearly every single day of our lives.
Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take any photos inside the exhibition so I can't show you what it looked like inside, but it was a really great day out and I would definitely recommend you drop by for a day out if you have the chance!
The Silver Swan
I always loved visiting The Bowes Museum when I was little, and the highlight of the day was without question getting to see the Silver Swan from the 1770s. Just as a disclaimer, I should admit that I did still make my mum show take me to see the swan on Sunday - I guess there are some things you never grow out of.
Here are some snaps from around the rest of the museum. It's pretty amazing - if anybody fancies buying me a house that looks exactly like it, that would be okay with me?
It's beautiful, no? I feel like my inner age is really either 7 or 70 because I get so excited by museums and stately homes. Like, I dream of going to National Trust houses. I think it's probably that I love the history, which sounds like a dumb thing to say, and seeing what people's lives were like way back in time. It's like being in a period drama when you walk around and look at all their things.
Do you like going to museums and exhibitions, or is that just me being a bit of an old person? Let me know in the comments or send me a Tweet. Oh, and don't forget you can now sign up to receive my newsletter... just casually gonna leave one here in case you fancy signing up! Loves x