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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Putting Our Best Foot Forward

by Obie Linn, Associate Conservator of Textiles

2/1/2024

CAMConservation , textile conservation , Rei Kawakubo , behind the scenes , Historical Shoes , Comme des Garcons

Something is afoot with these shoes! Can you put your finger (or toe) on the difference?

This pair of Comme des Garçons shoes came to the textile conservation lab recently to be prepared for a planned step-out into the galleries later this summer. Without a real foot inside the shoe, the elaborate bow/bundle of ribbons over the opening tended to wilt and slump backwards into the shoe. That’s no way to put a best foot forward!

We danced around the option of some kind of wire support inside to help hold up the bows and tip them forward, but after some experimentation with padding (made of polyester batting) it turns out we SOLEly needed a cushioned shape inside, more like how a natural foot would fill these shoes. The polyester forms within each snuggle under the bows, HEELing the deformation otherwise caused by the unsupported weight of the bows. Sometimes conservation is just problem solving, and that’s the flats—er, facts!