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Bata Shoe Museum Gets All Dolled Up with New Exhibition Exploring the World of Dolls

The Bata Shoe Museum is excited to announce the opening of its newest exhibition, All Dolled Up: Fashioning Cultural Expectations which explores how the world of dolls and their miniature shoes reflect the larger world.

Bata Shoe Museum Gets All Dolled Up with New Exhibition Exploring the World of Dolls
Bata Shoe Museum Gets All Dolled Up with New Exhibition Exploring the World of Dolls

Not limited to child’s play, dolls have been used since time immemorial around the world for a wide range of purposes. Their removable clothes, including footwear, bring delight to people due to their diminutive size, and many of these accessories have become collectable in their own right. Playing with dolls, however, has a greater impact than simply offering a distraction.

Dolls have historically promoted complex cultural ideas about gender, body image and social status, and many have been used to promote fashion consumption. Today, doll manufacturers in the West are making efforts to be more inclusive, featuring dolls with disabilities, gender fluid dolls and dolls that promote equality. The popularity of outfitting avatars in virtual games is also dramatically expanding the world of doll play.

“The museum has a number of extraordinary dolls and miniature shoes in its collection,” says Elizabeth Semmelhack, Director and Senior Curator of the Bata Shoe Museum. “I am very excited that we have been able to do an exhibition that focuses not only on these miniature marvels but also on the cultural work dolls have done for centuries.” 

Michael Jordan doll and miniature sneakers on display in “All Dolled Up: Fashioning Cultural Expectations”. Image © 2021 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada (photo: Kailee Mandel). (CNW Group/Bata Shoe Museum)
Michael Jordan doll and miniature sneakers on display in “All Dolled Up: Fashioning Cultural Expectations”. Image © 2021 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada (photo: Kailee Mandel). (CNW Group/Bata Shoe Museum)

Designed by the award-winning agency Arc + Co. Design Collective, the exhibition is remarkably reminiscent of the interior of a doll house and features over 30 artefacts that address a variety of topics, including gendered expectations for girls and boys, the lack of diversity and inclusion in mass-produced dolls and how that has been challenged, shoemaking in miniature, character creation in virtual games and more.  

 Highlights in the exhibition include:

  • Michael Jordan doll reflecting his time with the Chicago Bulls from 1985-1998, including 14 pairs of miniature Air Jordan sneakers that help connect the collecting of this doll to the collecting of sneakers and sneaker culture in general. 
  • Wheelchair Barbie which debuted in 2019 as part of a line that focused on more diverse and inclusive Barbies. 
  • Historically accurate reproduction of an English 18th century Queen Anne doll created specifically for the museum by master dollmaker Sonja Krause. The shoes made for this doll were inspired by a pair in the BSM collection. 
  • Shoemaking kit for girls from the 19thcentury that features all aspects of shoemaking, including wooden shoe forms called lasts, patterns for cutting out uppers and soles and instructions for making footwear in a range of styles and shoe sizes. 
  • Miniature Indian Mojari keepsakes from the 1960s which perfectly reflect the decorative footwear worn by men for special occasions.

With support from the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund, All Dolled Up: Fashioning Cultural Expectations opens October 2 and will be on view until October 2022. For more information, please visit https://www.batashoemuseum.ca

SOURCE Bata Shoe Museum

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