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Week 12: Foot-binding shoes

Where are these shoes from?

Why do they have this unusual shape?

Foot-binding shoes

(Click here for larger image)


Where are these shoes from?

These shoes were given to the Karshner Museum by somebody who brought them from China in the 1920s. They are made mostly out of silk.

Why do these shoes have this unusual shape?

They were made to be worn by a girl who had her feet bound, which meant using tight binding to change the shape of a girl's foot. Foot binding was a somewhat common practice in China for almost a thousand years, until it was outlawed by the Chinese government in 1912. There are many stories of why it started, but we know it began as a fashion among the wealthy & powerful. As it became more popular, justifications for foot binding arose. Some thought that it would make a girl more desirable for marriage, that taking away her ability to work made her delicate like a flower. The styles and extremity of the practice have had variations by region and period, but foot binding has been controversial in China from the beginning.