Cinderella has a long history of influencing popular culture and playthings. You might even say that she’s left a big footprint. The popular princess and her glass slipper came to my attention recently as I read an article about the upcoming Broadway revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical Cinderella. The article focused on the creation of glass slippers—actually polyvinyl-chloride pumps bedecked with 10,000 Swarovski crystals—for the show. Stuart Weitzman, the shoemaker responsible for Cinderella’s footwear, said, “Who is the first hero every little girl learns about? It’s a pair of shoes. A twenty-year-old girl can’t tell you a fairy tale she knew before ‘Cinderella,’ and the hero of ‘Cinderella’ is a shoe.” That comment got me curious about where Cinderella and her glass slippers show up in The Strong’s collection and the ways both have endured through the years.
Looking at a card game from about 1880 called Cinderella or Hunt the Slipper reveals that, as Weitzman contends, the slipper is indeed the star of the show—or at least the cover of the game box. Cinderella herself doesn’t even rate an appearance on the box label, shoved aside by a glamour shot of an elegant flat (no dancing in spike heels here!) ornamented by a very fancy buckle. And the entire purpose of this game is to be the person left holding the slipper card at the end: get the shoe, win the prince, and win the game. A game from 1898, Our Cinderella Party, substitutes Cinderella and her slipper for the standard party game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. The main image has poor Cinderella musing in her cinder-cleaning clothes before the ball, one foot conveniently unshod of its UGG-style boot and awaiting something snazzier. It must have been amusing for the game’s participants to watch their blindfolded competitors attach those stylish pumps to unsuitable spots all over the picture. A bird wearing a slipper? A slipper on Cinderella’s head? It was all part of the fun. But you’d never find Barbie unsuitably dressed, especially not when she’s appearing as a 1991 limited edition collectible Holiday Princess version of Cinderella. Now that I think about it, Barbie’s entire story resembles that of Cinderella: with the right outfit, she can go anywhere and win any prince she wants—or at least Ken. These three Cinderella artifacts and the almost 100 other related items in The Strong’s collection leave me with little doubt that Cinderella and her slipper—in all their versions—will be with us for a long, long time. Girls everywhere, your glass slippers await you.