I'm really excited by this article in the V&A museum's online journal. The writer of the article is studying the same MA course that I'm going to do next year, so it's fun for me to see what kind of interesting things people have written on that course in the past.
The article is about 'horse hoof' shoes worn by Manchu Chinese women. They were designed to make the feet look bigger and the wearer taller, and were intended as the antithesis of Han Chinese footbinding practices.
A particular design issue that arose in this context was how Manchu women could perform their femininity while wearing 'a long Daoist robe.' The design of their shoes was closely related to their mode of dress through movement. Han Chinese women were supposed to walk discreetly, while the Manchu 'qipao' and high-soled, noisy shoes made their wearers more conspicuous when they were walking. Some courtesans' and wealthy women's shoes were ornamented with jewels and bells in order to draw still further attention to them when walking.
I love the image of these brash, Manchu women who used to be nomadic hunters stomping around Chinese villages making a lot of jingle-jangle noises. It kind of reminds me of how I feel when I'm wearing my knee-high, PVC, 10-inch platform-heeled boots. I don't wear them very often, but when I do I feel very aware of the need to lift my legs properly and stride around like Lara Croft. It's awesome.