Elizabeth Semmelhack is an Adjunct Professor at Ryerson School of Fashion as well as the Senior Curator of the Bata Shoe Museum. Her work focuses on the construction of gender in relation to dress with a particular interest in the history of elevating footwear—a focus that began with her first exhibition for the museum, Heights of Fashion: A History of the Elevated Shoe (2001). Most recently she has curated Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture (2013), Roger Vivier: Process to Perfection (2012), The Roaring Twenties: Heels, Hemlines and High Spirits (2011) and On a Pedestal: Renaissance Chopines to Baroque Heels (2009).
Semmelhack is currently working on the exhibition Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th century with co-curator Ryerson professor Dr. Alison Matthews David. The exhibition is part of Dr. Matthews David’s SSHRC funded research project Fashion Victims: Clothing and Health in Historical Perspective on which Semmelhack is a co-investigator. She is also working on the upcoming exhibition Men in Heels and is working with the American Federation of the Arts to tour Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture across the United States.
Her upcoming publications included “The Allure of Height” in Shoes: Pleasure and Pain, ed. Helen Persson (Victoria and Albert Museum: 2016), Out of the Box (Rizzoli, 2016), Shoe (Reaktion Press: 2015), “Reveal and Conceal: Chopines and the Display of Material Wealth in Early Modern Valencia and Venice” in The Matter of Art: Materials, Technologies, Meanings, c. 1250-1650, ed. Christine Anderson, Anne Dunlop, and Pamela Smith (Manchester University Press: 2014). Other publications include “Above the Rest: Chopines as Trans-Mediterranean Fashion” in Special Issue of Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies: Touching the Ground: Platform Shoes in the Early Modern Hispanic World. (2013), “As Worn By” in Roger Vivier, Rizzoli (2013), Roger Vivier: Process to Perfection (2012), On a Pedestal: From Renaissance Chopines to Baroque Heels (2009), Icons of Elegance, Bata Shoe Museum (2005), Heights of Fashion: A History of the Elevated Shoe (2008), and “A Delicate Balance: Women, Power and the High Heel” in Shoes: A History from Sandals to Sneakers, Berg (2006).
Semmelhack has been a consultant for the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and has guest curated a number of exhibitions. She is also widely quoted in media such as The New York Times, Huffington Post, Wall St. Journal, Globe and Mail and National Post and has been interviewed on numerous shows including NBC’s Today Show, Conan O’Brien Show, Q with Jian Ghomeshi and TVO’s Big Ideas and has also been featured in a number of documentaries including God Save My Shoes and High Heel Confidential.