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Scandal Sandals and Lady Slippers: A History of Delman Shoes

Start Date 09 March 2010
End Date 0 3 April 2010
Venue The Museum at FIT
Location New York, USA
Curator Sarah Byrd and Laura Mina
Designer Nicole Bloomfield with Julia Carlson (design assistant)

The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) presents Scandal Sandals and Lady Slippers: A History of Delman Shoes, the first exhibition devoted to the Delman brand. Founded by Herman Delman in 1919 and today one of the oldest salon footwear brands in the United States, Delman’s glamorous, innovative, and classic shoes have been a cornerstone of the fashionable and quality-conscious woman’s wardrobe for the past 90 years. The company is known for embodying all that is chic, luxurious, and sophisticated. Scandal Sandals and Lady Slippers: A History of Delman Shoes will explore and reveal the company’s vibrant history of style, advertising, and fine craftsmanship.

Drawing from the permanent collections of both The Museum at FIT and the Delman archives, approximately 50 dazzling shoe styles will be presented alongside period examples of print advertisements, newsreel footage, and illustrated patents. These objects, dating roughly from 1926 to 2007, will chronicle the company’s rich history and creativity in both design and business.

Among the shoes on display will be a pair of multicolored, floral booties with a turn-back throat from the 1950s. Boldly original in their dramatic use of blue and purple hues, the booties draw attention to the lower leg. A pair of suede, instep strap sandals from circa 1939 performs a similar function. Boasting red, white, green, and blue color sections, four tiny bows are sequenced delicately down the vamp while a narrow ankle buckle strap, oval toe, and triangular heel maintain the shoes elegant silhouette. 

Herman Delman, who specialized in building shoes that were chic, yet comfortable, believed that skilled construction was essential to the creation of a quality shoe. He also was keenly aware of the importance of style and employed several notable designers over the years, including Roger Vivier, Herbert Levine, and Kenneth Jay Lane, as a means of shaping not only the aesthetic of his company but also the tastes of fashionable women across the country. Scandal Sandals and Lady Slippers: A History of Delman Shoes will feature three decades of shoes designed by Roger Vivier, as well as a pair of circa 1965 white leather Mary Jane heels ornamented with multicolored embroidered flowers and conceived by Herbert Levine. Each of these examples represents the characteristic trends in women’s footwear that helped to define the fashion-conscious woman’s wardrobe.

Also on display, from Delman’s Moulin Rouge collection, will be a pair of sling-back evening shoes that was featured in the company’s 1952 fall/winter line. Covered in bright red satin, these exquisitely designed shoes feature an open toe and draped vamp with peaked throat. A tall continental heel and halter-style buckle sling strap add to the luxurious craftsmanship of the shoes while simultaneously maintaining a high level of comfort.

Herman Delman’s savvy proficiency as a businessman and extroverted personality was frequently realized through his use of exquisitely illustrated advertisements and eye-catching window displays (the Delman store on Madison Avenue featured an oval window showcasing three cobblers at work), as well as his early understanding of the power of celebrity. His designs will forever be associated with iconic leading ladies of the Silver Screen. Marilyn Monroe, Joan Crawford, and Marlene Dietrich all wore Delman, while today celebrities such as Anne Hathaway, Blake Lively, and Leighton Meester are often spotted wearing the company’s designs at premieres and in photographs.

Delman’s enterprising use of celebrity played an integral role in his effort to market his shoes as an expression of the poised and idealized woman. He would often release ready-made copies of designs that had been made exclusively for movie stars. Scandal Sandals and Lady Slippers: A History of Delman Shoes will include ready-to-wear copies of the shoes Queen Elizabeth wore to her 1953 coronation, as well as Delman’s circa 2000 reinterpretation of the design. Also on display will be a pair of evening sandals from circa 1958 designed after Irene Castles Scandal Sandal dancing shoes. The metallic cord and leather detailing on the shoes beautifully complement the gold metallic high heel and make these evening shoes the perfect accessory for a night on the town. 

Delman was also known for his custom-made shoe services. Among the shoes to be featured in the exhibition are a custom-made pair designed for Mrs. Carrie Munn. Married to a prominent publisher, Mrs. Munn opened her own dress shop on Madison Avenue in 1942 and was known for her extravagant parties at the Waldorf-Astoria. The surfaces of her closed-toe, velvet pumps, which are cleverly printed to resemble feathers, highlight her appreciation of fashion-forward design.

On view at The Museum at FIT from March 9 through April 3, 2010, Scandal Sandals and Lady Slippers: A History of Delman Shoes has been organized and curated by graduate students of FIT’s Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice program.

The exhibition celebrates the 90th anniversary of Delman and marks the 25th anniversary of FIT’s Fashion and Textile Studies graduate program. In conjunction with the exhibition, students of the graduate program will offer a series of gallery tours, with each tour focusing on a specific theme within the context of the exhibition.

Delman’s timeless and classic shoes are found today at the country’s finest independent retailers, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as at Delman is a division of Nina Footwear Corp.

The Museum at FIT is the only museum in New York City dedicated solely to the art of fashion. Best known for its innovative and award-winning exhibitions, which have been described by Roberta Smith in The New York Times as ravishing, the museum has a collection of more than 50,000 garments and accessories dating from the 18th century to the present. Like other fashion museums, such as the Muse de la Mode, the Mode Museum, and the Museo de la Moda, The Museum at FIT collects, conserves, documents, exhibits, and interprets fashion. The museums mission is to advance knowledge of fashion through exhibitions, publications, and public programs. Visit

The Museum is part of the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), a college of art and design, business and technology, educating more than 10,000 students annually. FIT is a college of the State University of New York (SUNY) and offers 44 majors leading to the AAS, BFA, BS, MA, and MPS degrees. Visit

The Couture Council is a membership group of fashion enthusiasts that helps support the exhibitions and programs of The Museum at FIT. The Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion is given annually to a selected designer at a benefit luncheon held in September. For information on the Couture Council, call 212 217.4532 or email