If the shoe fits properly, it won't look anything like the shoes most women wear, says Bernard Rudofsky, architect and author, whose shoe designs are currently on exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York. They are part of a jewel of an exhibition called "Golden Eye: An International Tribute to the Artisans of India," but in fact, Rudofsky had trouble finding a craftsman to make proper shoes. Finally a man in Bombay, who had been a boot maker for the British army, was found who could create the kind of shoes Rudofsky wanted.
"Few people are aware that an undeformed foot's outline is not symmetrical," explains the information panel above the shoe display at the Cooper-Hewitt. "Since wearing shoes is synonymous with wearing symmetrical shoes, they become an instrument of deformation."
Modern shoes, according to Rudofsky, are not made to fit a human foot, but are made to fit a wooden last, or form, the shape of which is determined by the whims of fashion. In Rudofsky's opinion, shoe manufacturers put fashion before the health of the foot.
Rudofsky consulted podiatrist Dr. Simon Wikler, who says distortion of the natural foot shape starts with the first shoe an infant wears. "Never expect a child to complain a shoe is hurting him," says Wikler, "for the crippling process is painless."
Rudofsky suggests this test to find out if your toes are deformed: Place your bare feet close together while standing. "The big toes of undeformed feet are parallel."
The shoes in the exhibit are not for sale, and Rudofsky thinks it unlikely that American or other manufacturers will consider his styles. Some versions have been decorated, he says, not only to show off the craftsmanship of the Indian artisan, but to catch the attention of the museum visitor.
"Women would not even look at such shoes were they not decorated. What attracts them is the glitter and the kitsch."
While the extraordinary gold embroideries by Mary McFad- den are a major attraction in the "Golden Eye" exhibit as well, not to be missed are the fantasy toys and boxes by American designers Ivan Chermayeff and Milton Glaser, and the woolen crewelwork made according to the designs of Jack Lenor Larsen. The exhibition continues through February.