Shoes for women with bound feet, Chinese, 1870-1910.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
These shoes have a wooden sole with silk brocade uppers, decorated with applique and embroidery. Binding women's feet was a painful and crippling Chinese tradition which kept the size of the feet as small as posible. The smaller a Chinese woman's feet, the more sexually attractive and dependent she was perceived to be. The practice of foot binding began in the 10th century and continued until 1911, when it was banned by the new Chinese republic.