Bata Shoe Museum dresses up with new exhibit exploring the world of dolls


Not limited to child’s play, dolls have been used from time immemorial around the world for a wide range of purposes. Their removable clothes, including shoes, delight people because of their small size, and many of these accessories have become collectable in their own right. Playing with dolls, however, has a bigger impact than just providing 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 makers in the West are striving to be more inclusive, with dolls with disabilities, flowing dolls, and dolls that promote equality. The popularity of equipping avatars in virtual games is also significantly expanding the doll play world.

“The museum has a number of extraordinary dolls and miniature shoes in its collection,” explains Elizabeth semmelhack, director and principal curator of the Bata Shoe Museum. “I am very happy that we were able to do an exhibition that focuses not only on these miniature wonders, but also on the cultural work that dolls have done for centuries.”

Designed by award-winning agency Arc + Co. Design Collective, the exhibit is strikingly reminiscent of the interior of a dollhouse and features over 30 artifacts that address a variety of topics, including gender expectations for girls and women. boys, the lack of diversity and inclusion in mass-produced dolls and how this has been challenged, miniature shoe making, character creation in virtual games and more.

Highlights of the exhibition include:

  • Michael jordan doll reflecting her time with the Chicago Bulls from 1985 to 1998, including 14 pairs of miniature Air Jordan sneakers that help connect this doll’s collection with the sneaker collection and sneaker culture in general.
  • Wheelchair Barbie which debuted in 2019 as part of a line focused on more diverse and inclusive Barbies.
  • Historically accurate reproduction of an English 18e century Queen anne doll created especially for the museum by the master dollmaker Sonja krause. The shoes made for this doll were inspired by a pair from the BSM collection.
  • Shoe repair kit for girl from 19e century which features all aspects of shoe making including wooden shoe shapes called hard, templates for cutting uppers and soles, and instructions for making shoes in a range of shoe styles and sizes.
  • Miniature indian Mojari memorabilia from the 60s that perfectly reflect the decorative shoes worn by men for special occasions.

With the support of the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund, All Dolled Up: shaping cultural expectations open October 2 and will be visible until October 2022. For more information, please visit

SOURCE Bata Shoe Museum

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