6 / 1999

Manchuria * Women's elevated shoe with embroidered satin vamp

The womenfolk of the ruling Manchus wore a special shoe, exaggeratedly elevated, with a concave heel in the centre of the instep. As well as initiating the swaying gait caused by bound feet it also made them tower over less important people. The soles consist of a wooden frame 10-15 cm in height, upon which white cloth is stretched. Much like the Venetian "Chopines" of the 15th century, they are exceedingly inconvenient in use, but they show the well-to-do position of the wearer. The bottom of the shoes was padded with layers of cotton, to prevent jarring when walking. The vamp was made of silk and embroidered with designs of flowers, birds and fruit. The seams and edges were outlined with black satin. Such shoes forced women to walk very erectly and with tiny steps.

Research and text by : W.A.H.M. Habraken-Oosterhout-Holland
Illustration by : Colin Ball - Waalwijk - Holland