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Julie Bishop’s Red Shoes: fashion meets politics in a powerful statement

 Greg Bell
The Hon Julie Bishop viewing her red shoes on display at the museum. Photo by: Greg Bell
Fashion can make a powerful political statement, and in late 2018 a pair of red satin block-heel pumps, now part of our permanent collection, made one of the loudest.

Worn by the Hon Julie Bishop when she announced her resignation as Australia’s first female foreign minister, the red shoes became a focus point for debate on the representation and treatment of women in politics. Journalist Alex Ellinghausen’s photograph from the press conference helped to ignite a national discussion.

Ms Bishop adopted a red shoe emoji in her popular Twitter feed, while women around the country featured red in their clothing as a symbol of solidarity with her.

On donating the shoes to the museum in November 2018, Ms Bishop said that she had not appreciated the impact that her now iconic shoes would have, and described them as a ‘tribute to the aspirations of all women’.

Fashion is a tool for communicating identity and political expression. What you wear can be an act of solidarity, defiance or disguise. It can shock, awe, subjugate, terrify, provoke, protest and satirise. The museum’s growing collection of clothing and footwear recognises fashion as a mirror of society and clothing items as political documents of ideas, identity and democracy.

Collecting and displaying clothing allows us to engage with visitors on a personal level and challenge them to think about their own fashion choices. The shoes created considerable interest on our social media channels, with members of the public debating what the shoes represented, how female politicians are portrayed in the media, and the value of collecting such an item.