In this inaugural edition of Rogue, we debunk myths related to the history of footbinding and role of women in ancient Chinese society that started this very practice. We also decided to glam up the role of women in the domestic setting because we believe that these are very respectable roles worth celebrating! Try doing them day after day, and I’m sure you’ll have a new found respect for our unsung heroes/heroines.
You are the most creative when you are given the most constraints.
We were stuck in our airbnb Nanjing for the entire day, and Dress Up Dreams and I came up with this #Hanfumaid series using whatever we could find there. I’m sorry we couldn’t cover all the topics as promised on the cover of this issue’s Rogue, but if there’s enough demand, maybe we would get to them one day!
If you would like to read it like a real online magazine, you can download the pdf file Rogue1-2018.
And yes, I remember that I still owe you tutorials to hair and make-up hacks. I’m still figuring out video. Writing’s so much easier!
Photo & layout by: Dressed Up Dreams
Post production & article by: Hanfugirl
Full text as below for easy reading:
Foot binding, the unlikely predecessor of the Stiletto (imho), was said to be invented by a courtesan about a thousand years ago in China (but of course!). This practice has always been closely associated with the 3-inch golden lotus shoes and the outdated oppression of women but it didn’t start out that way. When the Song dynasty women first bound their feet in the 10th Century, they simply wanted it to be narrower and slightly smaller, and didn’t resort to extreme body modification. It started merely as a fashion statement or a product of vanity, very much like the corsets and stilettos. Such a fashion evolved into fetish amongst the literati and slowly became mainstream aesthetics overtime.
Like many fashion trends, the aesthetics of foot binding followed the spirit of the era–stylised and minimalist. It was more important to be thin and narrow than arched and small (unlike the aesthetics of later centuries which resulted in the deformed lotus shoes that we are more familiar with). Everything about the Song aesthetics that prevailed during the 10th–13th century was a rebel against the excessive and showy aesthetics of the period before, and it was the beginning of women’s war against weight gain.
Because Hanfumaid was not a courtesan, entertainer or prostitute in the early 10th Century, nor was she from an elite family in the 13th Century, she came to the modern world with her full-fledged feet–feet so big, lumpy and full of curves and lines, that Song people would regard it the Quasimodo of female feet. For that reason (mainly), she spent most of her time at home, redeeming her unattractiveness by doing household chores back when (not where) she came from. The 21st Century Hanfumaid in Nanjing remains a Song dynasty woman in a modern day woman’s shoes, still confined to the domestic chores–things hasn’t seemed to change much over the last 1,000 year!
Dresses and blouses during Song dynasty were mainly straight cuts–sleeves and collars were all made up of parallel lines. And we all know, straight cuts are not flattering to women with curves, so women of that time pursued a lean physique. Shoes uncovered from the later part of the 13th Century were found to be as narrow as 4.5-5.8cm with lengths of about 14-17cm which were not entirely appalling sizes given that women were of smaller frame back then as well.
Then, like now, Hanfugirl would be gazing out of her window halfway through her chores, looking at women who paraded up and down the streets in the day for work and at night for leisure. Feminism hadn’t found its name yet, but it didn’t stop women from living the way they should. Women had full rights to marry and divorce freely, be educated and work independently, be empowered to reveal their cleavage freely… We have record to prove it!
While the Tang Dynasty was the age of power women, the Song Dynasty was the age of empowered women. Women were valued for their ability to read and write, and the multi-talented entertainers (Chinese equivalent of Geishas) were respected as equals by famous male literati of their time. Education, was indeed the greatest leveller across gender and social hierarchy, at least at the beginning.
When the pursuit of being objectified exceeded the pursuit for education, that’s when women lost their empowerment bit by bit. Overtime, the foot fetish of men caught up with their rationality, and women started making their feet smaller, and their worth were measured against the size of their feet. The matchmaker would bring a mock-up of the bride-to-be’s shoe to the groom-to-be’s house for inspection. Should the groom-to-be’s family find it unsatisfactorily big, they would cut one round around its sole, and send it back to the matchmaker, indirectly rejecting this proposal for marriage. As a result, the feet coincidentally also became like Cinderella’s ticket to the royal ball and the high life.
Now in case you were wondering, Song dynasty women didn’t need chaperons when they go out, or when they participate in the Chinese New Year night festival (not to be confused with the Singapore Night Festival that happens every August) which was a hot spot for dating and meeting the opposite gender. Like Cinderella, Hanfumaid is likely to dress to the nines when she goes out for some me-time. Or, as in the case of some unsuspecting owners, Hanfumaid would be trying out the branded, fancy dresses in the house while the owners spend 90% of their waking hours climbing corporate ladders to afford those very dresses Hanfumaid was indulging herself in.
And because Hanfumaid is the antithesis of Hanfugirl, she has zero redeeming factor for her laziness, vulgar feet and aspirational outlook in life. The only purpose of her existence in this entire article, is to look busy, and drink Xiaoming. Xiaoming, the only drink for the undeserved.