Silver Lotus slippers

10 years, 8 months ago 43
Posted in: Doll Accessories


The idea of making a pair of Lotus slippers for my doll in precious metal has been on my mind for years,  ever since I made the doll Lotus with bound feet and beaded Lotus shoes in 2006. Even though I am appalled by the barbaric practice of mutilating women’s feet for aesthetic purposes in ancient China, I am simultaneously enchanted by the decorative aspect of the exquisitely beautiful lotus shoes that were made to be worn by those mutilated feet- or as they were called in China, Golden Lilies.


Such a pretty name to describe a pair of horrendous-looking, broken feet. Yet, even as I condemn the practice, inexplicably I seem to be drawn to the beauty of  the shoes and the surreal aesthetic of tiny feet. Cinderella wore glass slippers on her allegedly natural, little feet, and that was considered sexy in Europe. I mean, the entire fairly tale seems to be about those magnificent shoes and the virtue of having small feet. So, it appears that the Chinese were not the only ones to fetishize the size of women’s feet, they were just the ones to do something about it.


Anyway. I’ve dreamt about making these for months, if not years, and I’m so happy to see them finally finished! I had to make a pair of bound feet of course, so that my dolls could wear these pretty slippers. In this picture you can see Echo’s normal feet next to her bound feet. The beauty here is that my dolls’ feet can be interchanged back and forth from small to normal just like a pair of shoes, while the real women didn’t have that opportunity.


This particular pair was inspired by a real shoe, which in fact is very unique. It’s a lotus-style shoe for a bound foot, that sits on a Manchu-style platform. And the Manchu women did not bind their feet. I’ll post a picture of it soon and tell you more about my source once I experiment some more with these. I’ll post the pictures of the feet once I make another pair and work out the painting style for them.

I am considering making a pair of interchangeable lotus feet and shoes available for resin dolls. In fact, Echo will be the first costumed edition to be released. I don’t have a price point for this costumed doll yet, as the project is still in the early stages. She will have to undergo some changes to address the incredible complexity of her present hair style, but the costume will remain the same. This is one of the things I’m working out now. And I’m very excited about it.

43 Responses

  1. sarah ellison says:

    I love it!
    I have been researching lotus shoes these past few weeks for an aspect of my embroidery thesis, looking at the self expression of the embroidery and as personal decoration. which means I’ll end up sewing some teeny shoes with my own embroidery soon. if you want to see photos, let me know and I’ll be happy to show you!

  2. noxy says:

    That’s incredible! Those silver lotus shoes look so crazy. And painful. And to hear Echo will be available in resin form is so neat! I wonder what her new hairstyle will look like! Hmmmm

  3. Holy moly! they look to tiny to be accurate, incredible…. It looks like they sawed off the foot just past the ankle….. I’m intrigued to see echo’s tiny lotus feet…

    And echo becoming available as a limited edition costume doll is very exciting……

  4. Amal says:

    Echo = <3
    Crushed feet = :-s

  5. Eiko says:

    Oh my, those bound feet are tiny! The shoes are lovely. I like the design.

    Can Echo stand up on her own with those tiny feet?

  6. La Môme Néant says:

    I have just discovered the name of this shoes, thanks to your article. I did not know the shoes were called Lotus shoes… It feels like I’ve just opened an uncanny treasure chest: the shoes are just so precious, I’ve just seen pictures of embroidered silk (or satin?) slippers.
    i remember having be strongly strucked by pictures of one of the last remaining woman with bounded feet, 5 years ago.
    The shoes you created for the doll are just so precious.

  7. Paula F. says:

    Yes! I was wondering, if the idea of making bound-feet doll will be continued somewhere in the future, and it really happened! The possibility of interchangeable lotus feet for resin ED’s is just brilliant, I’m curious about how Lotus feet looks ,,unbound”, I mean without those lovely silver slippers. One of my favourite Enchanted Doll shown again, yay! :D

  8. The Old Maid says:

    Beautiful shoes, yet I would never want to have my feet broken just to wear these shoes! Lucky doll she can change the size of her feet!:) Great job!

  9. Eva says:

    The shoes are lovely Marina. I’m still rather creeped out by bound feet, but at least Echo has the option of going back to normal.

    Paula F., if you look at Marina’s other doll, Lotus, you can see what one of her versions of bound feet looks like. If you want to be slightly more horrified, here are two links to pictures of actual bound feet:

  10. Jean says:

    I´ts really creepy to think about it … but i think it´s ok on dolls! the shoes are so beatyfull.

  11. Paula F says:

    Eva- thank you for your help and links, but actually, I’ve been fascinated with this ( in fact very cruel and complately sensless) practice for months or even years and I’m aware of reality and how does it look in real life. And please notice, that costumed bound-feet Lotus has her Golden Lilies without joint so they can’t be changed to normal feet, and I’m curious becasue now it’s ,,optional part” :D I can only guess, but I think ED from the photos posted above is porcelain Echo with resin (?) lotus feet.

    ,,There’s no beauty without cruelty”

  12. Sau Wei Ma says:

    I love the silver lotus shoes. I guess the feet are made into bounded feet as well? Could I see how they look like?
    However, those are Manchurian shoes. Manchus were nomads, they lived in steppes. So they didn’t practice bound-feet. Only the Chinese practiced, and they had been practicing bound-feet since Sung dynasty 800 years ago.

  13. Jenny H says:

    Are bound feet any different to towering stilettos in terms of making it difficult for women to walk??? I love her flat shoes the best!!!

  14. the difference I guess is you can take off your towering stiletto’s at the end of the day…. your bound feet are broken forever.

    Marina I’ve been coming back to this page again and again… it’s entrancing…

  15. Juls says:

    Marina, aren’t they too small? How did you work out the size of them? They look definetely too small to be possible.. sorry.

  16. Marina says:

    I think you might be misunderstanding the entire point of this project, Juls. They are meant to be small- just like the bound feet of Chinese women were. Way too small to be proportionate. Have a look at the actual photographs of real bound feet and you will see that my ratio of foot to body is very accurate.

    But perhaps I am misunderstanding what you mean why “too small to be possible”. Please elaborate further.

  17. I wanted to write a response as well… may I? :-)

    When I looked at your doll “Lotus” and her tiny feet, I didn’t blink for a second about the size. I had seen photographs before of bound feet, and Lotus Doll’s seemed accurate and true to life.

    I’ll admit when I first looked at that close up of Echo and her tiny tiny feet hidden in those silver lotus shoes, I thought too, that they seemed a bit too small – I think it’s the joint lining of her ankle peeking through and the buckle on the strap: in ratio the feet seem too tiny … however:

    Spurred and inspired by this latest post of yours, I’ve been researching Lotus shoes and Lily feet all night, staring at unbelievable photographs and reading horrific accounts.
    The close up photographs have a way of fooling you. The feet seem bound and broken…but almost normal sized… I had to look at the hands of the people holding some of the feet in the photographs, and look down at my own hand for an idea of scale to really surprise myself… that small? how? surely not? oh my god….

    There were also accounts of some that were bound ferociously tight, and others who were left a little “looser”. Your Echo, as an emperors daughter, obviously was allowed no relent in the pursuit of the tiniest feet imaginable. Some girls got their feet down to 3 inches long.
    3 inches long……… it’s unbelievable. In that regards, Echo’s feet are unbelievable small.. and sadly true to life. If she were a real girl, she would have undergone an unthinkable amount of pain and suffering to get to this (twisted) notion of beauty… and billions of girls did.

    I think this project more than any of your others has really provoked thought and contemplation in me. I’ve been researching and reading and gathering knowledge all night.

    I also thought about the Cinderella link. How her feet were so so “beautifully” tiny that when she lost her shoe, NO OTHER girl in the entire kingdom could fit into them…….. It would almost be interesting to see your cinderella doll wearing a tiny pair of silver lotus slippers.

    i am glad you continue to challenge and depict female characters from history and mythology – asking us to then question and rect, and then reflect.. ultimately this is the greatest goal of art (I think)

    I am entranced by your Echo and her tiny feet and miniature lotus slippers… I hope you do bring this idea of a Limited Edition for sale…. I would be interested.

  18. Sau Wei Ma says:

    Women with bound-feet always need to have someone to help them walk especially when they get older. Their feet were so tiny and their pant are wide, so a lot of time you can only see two points sticking out their pants not feet. My great grandmother had bound-feet and according to my mom she always have to travel back to China from Indonesia to get her shoes. Those shoes were all embroidered, very rich in colors.

  19. Lucja says:

    Those shoes are beautiful!

    Please don’t mind me for pointing out, but Manchu women were not allowed to bind their feet, so they created unique shoes instead. Marina, you just put Manchu shoes on a Han girl; the doll looks LOVELY, but in the real world, she wouldn’t be able to walk even if supported by servants on either side.

    I love your dolls. And, just in case you have any questions about costumes of any of China’s fifty-six nations, I’d be glad to help! Perhaps you remember me from DeviantArt (Filozofa).

    And speaking of Chinese costumes, the Cixi headdress and costume looked Han while the empress was Manchu. But she is still so so gorgeous!

  20. Marina says:

    Lucja, I am very well aware of the fusion of Manchu and Han styles in this shoe. I believe I even mention ALL that in the last paragraph and say that it is inspired by a real shoe. Like I said, underscoring the unbelievable nature of the tradition of foot binding was the whole point of the project, and here I am being told that it’s impossible- well, no kidding! Does nobody actually read my posts- you know, all those words between the pictures? :)

    The sole goal of foot binding was getting the feet to the impossibly small proportions to the body. The entire impossibility of this shoe makes it seem almost a purely conceptual or decorative piece and not a footwear, and yet it was! And that’s what makes it so beautiful: that some poor woman had to wear this most exquisite and the most uncomfortable shoe in the world. She was a Chinese Cinderella.

    I own a book about Lotus feet, and this precious little shoe is straight from that. I’ll post it in a bit and then you will see-all those who question my accuracy! Whah ha ha ha ha!

    And even if Echo’s feet were smaller than “normal”, which in itself is impossible because the size of the bound foot is always subjective and fluctuated depending on the size of the girl and the tightness of the bindings, and even if my shoe wasn’t inspired by the real thing, which it was, so what? So what?
    It’s art ladies, and the job of art is not to be realistic or possible or believable, it’s to make you think by underscoring the most important issues of the subject it explores.

    Thanks, Monika.

  21. Paula F says:

    Ha, in my opinion this fusion is very interesting, and I remember, that few months ago I found an article about foot-binding and there was something about special lotus shoes with kind of platform in the center, and (if I’m right) it was related to concubines and courtesans , placing the special platform in the center affected their libido or sth like this…but I can’t find it now. The shoes I’m talking about look similar to these:

    and maybe a little bit to these too:

    But it’s just a bunch of my chaotic thoughts :)

  22. i wasn’t saying I thought you were wrong! :-O

    simply that upon doing some research, it becomes painfully evident how realistic and accurate echo’s shoes and feet actually are!!

    sorry for my essay :-o I got carried away : )

  23. Marina says:

    My comment was by no means directed at you, Monika, as you seem to always get me. I was addressing concerns of other skeptics. Hence me thanking you for getting me and not being hung up on the irrelevant things, such as the possibility of the whole thing.
    I don’t think there is such a thing as right and wrong in art, because art is not objective whatsoever. There are only personal opinions.
    And I love essay posts.

  24. Jayne Wourms says:

    I can’t wait to see the resin echo and her outfit. The tiny shoes are magnificent!

  25. Rachel Bjork says:

    I’ve read up on the ‘art’ of foot binding in ancient China.
    You weren’t beautiful, or fit for marriage, if your feet weren’t bound.
    I see the repeat nowadays (stilettos).
    You’re not sexy if you do not wear high heels.
    And you’re expected not to fall!
    I am the proud owner of 10.5 size feet and I wouldn’t dream of romping around in 4 inch heels!
    I love my flat shoes!
    I CANNOT imagine the PAIN of binding your feet….my feet ACHE at the thought of it.
    To me Echo is beauty/living pain.
    She’s reached her prime with her bound feet and tiptoes around delicately, trying to keep her face pretty and peaceful.
    Beauty is pain.
    You’ve scored again Marina!
    You did perfectly.
    The shoes are tiny and meet the facts of the torture Echo has gone through.

  26. Jenny H says:

    This is stimulating and thought provoking stuff: and that is what art is all about!!!! (I just love the incredibly loaded political messages in some of your dolls Marina!!! ‘The Vessel’ is my favorite at the moment!) I am 5’2″ tall with a whopping 8-8.5 shoe size, so Echo’s teeny feet are incredible to me, and yet totally believable at the same time. Some years ago now I visited the Bronte’s museum at Haworth in Yorkshire and remember being amazed at the size of their shoes… SO SMALL, and their feet weren’t even bound!! I think as human beings over the last few centuries we have been getting bigger all the time, so vestiges from previous generations seem all the more fascinating, for both genetic and political reasons.

  27. Somnifer says:

    I’m not sure if my mentioning this here is redundant, but since Marina mentioned the foot-fetishising that goes on in Cinderella in connection with Chinese foot-binding, I’ll throw this out there anyway, just in case someone might find it informative: The link between Cinderella’s little feet and Chinese foot-binding is actually quite a substantial one, since scholars have found that the earliest known text version of the Cinderella story was written in China during the 9th century (I think that predates foot-binding by about 200 years, but one can conjecture that the aesthetic of small feet was already in circulation by then– Eg. A woman’s breasts have been an object of erotic attention for centuries in the West, but it wasn’t until quite recently that science and culture merged to produce conditions under which implants became possible and somewhat acceptable).

  28. daniseyu says:

    i was plan to say something about Manchu and the Flag Shoes and the lotus.but you have thought it over already and do your own design,thats interesting .as u say its conceptual and need to be too contests

  29. I am spellbound by your depiction of the lotus feet Marina. The details you put into your pieces is wonderful and a tribute to customs foreign to many of us.

  30. Orangey says:

    Wow, it is almost painful to look at this beauty knowing what must had happened to her feet in order that she can be deemed ‘beautiful’. Of course she is a doll, but this thing is a fact of the past.

    Wonderful work, Marina!

    I read a novel set in the time of footbinding in China. Apparently, the smell would be putrid and they would not have been able to wear the shoes open as they are here (if I’m remembering correctly), but you must know that already. Artistic license.~

  31. Helene says:

    I believe in the early versions of Cinderella, the bad sisters even cut off a part of their foot to try and fit it into the slipper.
    I digress a bit here, but for us the slippers are not made of glass but of fur – “vair” in old French. This word is not used anymore, and with time it was replaced in the story by “verre” which is pronounced the same way but means “glass”. I think it makes much more sense than glass slippers.
    Anyway, it seems that original versions of fairy tales, long before Disney, were much scarier and more gory than today.
    There is another fairy tale I like a lot, a bit similar to Cinderella by certain aspectsn, called Donkey’s skin. Here in order to marry the prince, a girl had to fit her finger into a small ring which belonged to the princess the prince had fallen in love with. In early versions, candidates cut off some meat from their ring finger in order to try and fit it into the ring.

  32. Marina says:

    Well, Helene, I suppose that early fairy tales were a lot more honest about the relevance of feminine beauty in our society and the extent to which women are prepared to mutilate themselves in order to fit those socially established canons of beauty and proportion.
    Thank you. Fur, eh? Very interesting…

  33. beautiful as always!

    my family has 2 ancient pairs of these silk embroidered slippers in their “curiousity cabinet”. they’ve been with the family forever. and i don’t know what to say about them except they are beautifully made and so very tiny.

  34. oh and about Donkey Skin. in that fairy tale the girl is being put upon by her father to marry him. it’s a stomach turner. there is an incredibly beautiful film version with Catherine Deneuve. you have to see it if you haven’t. her dresses are made of the moving clouds in the sky, and stars in another, and i think the moon in another.

  35. ok, another post. i wish i could be more organized today but i’m not. marina if you want to see the ones my family has, they are in kitsilano. and my mother would be more than happy to show them to you. just email me at the address included in the post. my name is tara.

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