These shoes aren’t horsing around

Interning at the Bata Shoe Museum can be a shoe lover’s dream.

But Ryerson student Jessica Miniaci got to do more than just look at shoes. She produced her very own exhibit – one that showcased equestrian riding boots from 1860 to 1948.

“It looks at both men’s and women’s equestrian footwear,” said the second-year master of arts in fashion student. “Humans and horses have always had a very special relationship and it is ultimately during this period that the now classic styles became popular through increased participation in equestrian sport.”

The classic and fashionable silhouettes of riding boots during this time period are actually found in today’s designer fall and winter collections, she said.

Miniaci is not new to the equestrian scene. She has fond childhood memories watching her cousin compete in polo matches, which ultimately led to an interest in equestrian footwear.

“Another primary inspiration behind this was my undergrad studies,” she said. “My art history background at the University of Toronto gave me the opportunity to study the iconic equestrian portraits that western civilization has been able to create.”

Miniaci studied iconic European figures during her undergrad, including Napoleon Bonaparte, who was an icon and major influence in horse riding. As captain of a fox-hunting team, he wore boots with a red cuff to symbolize his status.

“In Napoleon wearing this, he’s asserting himself as the captain of his country, the captain of his army,” she said. “It also shows the importance of horseback riding in equestrian sport and the influence it had on the upper classes.”

Although Miniaci’s exhibit ends tomorrow, she hopes to continue to work in the field of museum studies and use what she has learned from her art history degree to examine footwear in other time periods.

In the meantime, Miniaci said she is happy to have had the experience of creating her own exhibit.

“If somebody told me earlier this year this would be happening, I never would have believed it,” she said. “This experience has been so enriching.”

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