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Shoe - Artifacts

Image Shoe
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One violet shoe of embroidered silk made for bound feet. Floral embroidered design in blue, pink, and pale blue satin stitch. Embroidery work is done over a glued-on paper stencil, resulting in a raised motif. Top of shoe is edged with a blue and white border with a version of the Chinese "Thunder Pattern" -- now very faded. Interior lined with cotton fabric. Hand-made, with machine stitching on sole. Most of the embroidery has worn off, revealing the glued-on paper stencil beneath. Parts of this paper stencil have flaked off. Purple silk faded. Part of the top piping lost; remaining piping is faded and torn throughout. Mate of shoe not in collection. Such tiny shoes were worn by many women of the Han Chinese majority, (Western Han: 206 BC - 8 AD, Eastern Han: 24 AD - 220 AD) who had their feet deformed in childhood. Inside the shoes the feet were kept tightly bound, using bandages and broad ribbons. This painful custom was in accordance with the ancient Chinese ideals of feminine beauty, small feet being originally regarded as a mark of high birth, and later as erotic and fashionable. The custom was practiced as late as the 1930's.
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