Beth Levine: First Lady of Shoes

Beth Levine is arguably the most important woman in fashion you’ve never heard of. The late New York shoe designer (1914-2006) popularized stilettos and boots while working under the footwear label of her husband, Herbert Levine, from the late ’40s to early ’70s. Those sweet white go-go boots Nancy Sinatra rocked in “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’”? A Levine creation. The first exhibit of her work in the United States, “Beth Levine: First Lady of Shoes,” features over 100 designs, ranging from classic to questionable to, er, experimental. It’s the latter that make the show. These are styles that even Lady GaGa would pause before donning—pumps attached to pantyhose, flip-flops with AstroTurf insoles, stilettos that can be worn only if glued directly to the feet. (You can also thank Levine for the clear plastic heels that strippers favor.) It’s fashion over function at its finest. As Levine herself once explained, her niche was creating shoes that “nobody needed, but everybody wanted.” Indeed. ERIKA HOBART

Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Fridays, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 12-5 p.m. Starts: Feb. 18. Continues through June 6, 2010

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