“Why will you go out this weather?”
Evaluation – Shoes – Brawne Room/ reception
Each pair of shoes tells a story about a different part of Fanny’s life while living in the house, the shoe designs are authentic for the time they represent.
The pair nearest the entrance to the room, were based on the time when Fanny first meet Keats and fell in love. On the soles is a quote from letter Keats wrote to Fanny at this time.
“I shall follow you with my eyes over the heath…you will have a pleasant walk today”
You may also spot an eye in the design. The butterflies relate to another quote from a letter to Fanny
“ I almost wish we were butterflies and lived but three summer days”
There are three butterflies on this pair or shoes and also three pairs of shoes in total. The butterflies also have a more sinister meaning at this time, as many people believed seeing three butterflies foresee a death in the near future
Wearing green was also considered to be an Oman of death – the saying was Black follows green, black being the colour worn in mourning
But the colour green, the flowers and other nature references also relates to the key role the natural world played in Fanny and Keats relationship which developed on their walks on the Heath
The second pair are walking boots dating from the time after Keats had died. Fanny wore mourning for three years and coped by going for walks on the heath retracing the steps she and Keats took. These boots have also been worn down walking over the heath.
The third pair of shoes date from the time Fanny came out of mourning and started to move on with her life and returned to social events, she retained her flare for fashion throughout her life and never forgot Keats, as shown by the flowers and butterflies mirrored from the first shoes and Keats initials on her soles, only now her passion is hidden.
These shoes are a little harder wearing than the originals would have been, are a UK size 5 and visitors were welcome to try them on.
I always knew I wanted to have shoes in the exhibition, people connect with shoes, they are very engaging, they asked to be picked up and tried on, the idea to use more than one pair to show the span of time documented in the exhibition developed quite quickly
I had originally wanted to have the shoes placed next to the front door in the hall way of Keats house, the location changed for two reasons, for security and to allow visitors an earlier “way in” to the exhibition, guided by the front of house staff. Once the location was chosen the set up was straightforward. The gold flowers, used throughout the house to mark the position of the pieces were used in this case stitch to the carpet to mark the position the shoes needed to be returned to.
This exhibit is recorded in staff feedback as the exhibit that made the most impact on visitors, one comment regularly made was on the size of the shoes, the shoes were made in a standard UK size five, but do to the regency style, long and thin, many visitors remarked that they looked very large, some visitors also wondered if this reflected on the size of Fanny Brawne’s feet, sadly there is no surviving evidence of her shoe size.
I am really pleased with how the shoes turned out, the maker, Cassandra Reilly, reflected my ideas perfectly and with an excellent level of attention to detail
The shoes survived the exhibition intact with only a couple of loose flowers on the green pair.
Feedback from the visitor questioner showed the shoes to be the most handled (jointly with the corset) and the most tried on (jointly with the Mitts) 50% of visitors stated these to be their favorite piece, the highest percentage, suggesting these were the most successful items in relation my aims for the exhibition. This feebback has been built into plans for items for The Fashion of John Keats Life and Death
Evaluations for the other items to be added soon…