Dorothy Ko “The Body as Attire: The Shifting Meaning of Footbinding in Seventeenth Century China”
Diana Crane Fashion and Its Social Agenda
As a Chinese American woman who has grown up half in Taiwan and the United States, I distinctively remember both of my grandmothers having bounded feet. Therefore it drew me to the article of Dorothy Ko to further my knowledge on the research studies of the west on the topic. Dorothy Ko understood footbinding as more than just a tradition, but as three different contradicting categories: “expression of Chinese wen civility, as a marker of ethnic boundaries separating Hand from Manchu, and as an ornament or embellishment of the body… [and] focus on the usefulness of footbinding to the construction of ethic and gender boundaries….” (Ko 10)
I remember in the very first lecture in our class, Professor Valverde mention France imposed laws to better separate the different classes from one another by distributing different clothing style to different social classes, and I related it to my early childhood when I had asked my parents why did the Chinese bounded their women’s feet. My parents responded that the Chinese separate the social classes that way, understanding that women who were peasants needed to work outside and labored in the field all day, while nobleman’s daughters stayed indoors, and can sit and rest whenever they needed to. The relations of bounded feet is a sign of beauty as well because the smaller one’s feet are, the less likely she will run away, and will remain indoors and submissive to one’s husband. She will not be able to stand up (literally) for herself, and she will not be able to do any kind of work, thus leaving her completely helpless and dependent upon her husband. I was also told that this constant indoor imprisonment is consistent with the lack of sunshine, therefore most noblemen’s daughters are pale, which leads to the craze to be pale in Asia, for it is a sign of wealth and class.
I instantly connected the two countries: China and France together, for it became a tradition in physical representation of class, which still influences our ideal of beauty to even today. I was lucky to find a book by Diana Crane, titled Fashion and Its Social Agendas, which I was not able to completely finish, but I was eager to understand how fashion was used and how it has influenced and shaped our idea of beauty now. Hence I read chapter two and five: “Working Class Clothing and the Experience of Social Class in the Nineteenth Century” and “Fashion World and Global Markets: From ‘Class’ to ‘Consumer’ Fashion” which actually set France as an example to discuss the changes for the blue collars women in France and how the French “fashion systems” have transcended until today. I wish I will have more opportunity to conduct more research upon this topic, simply because I think we all, as a society, live within it, and we should be aware of it as well.