Tradescant Collection

 

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  The Catalogue: Chinese Boots with Integral Stockings  
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The Tradescant
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About this Resource
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DIMENSIONS:
Height 430 mm; Length (sole) 280 mm
DESCRIPTION:
Thick-soled knee-length fabric boots from China. The leg and uppers are made of black satin-woven silk, lined with coarse white cotton. The uppers of the foot are made in two parts, with a seam at either side of the foot and a band across the front: they are made as a traditional Chinese slipper, and are lined with blue dyed cotton. The leg is made in two parts seamed up the front and back and is interlined with cotton. The leg is longer at the front than at the back, and has a curved upper edge. The whole is sewn with a cotton binding on to a rigid sole 25 mm thick, which has an upturned toe tapering to 8 mm in thickness guarding the front of the foot. The sole wedge is covered by a bias-cut white cotton layer, and the sole itself is covered by thin leather sewn in place with three rows of cotton stitching. The sole is constructed of layers of cotton sewn tightly together to build up to the required depth of the wedge.

    Stockings made to be worn with these boots also survive. The sole of the stocking is of stitched coarse cotton of several layers. The uppers of the slipper section are in two parts, seamed at front and back; this part is made of a fine cotton and is stitched on to the leg which is of fine silk. Up to the ankle this silk is white, and above that a coffee colour, with a black silk bound edge curved to match the boot, which it is designed to top. Just below the binding is a coloured braid, which also would show above the boot. The leg of the stocking is padded, and lined with a coarse soft cotton. The padding is arranged in simple longitudinal stitched quilting, each rib being packed with strands of tow-like material and with silk waste.

COMMENTARY:
The design of these boots is a modification of the traditional riding-boots of the Manchu, the rulers of China in the Ch'ing dynasty (1644-1911). The thick, rigid-soled, turned-up-toe shape fits firmly into the big stirrup which the Manchus used. This style of boot became part of Manchu court dress and was adopted into general use. This relatively shallow-soled version with fine silk legs is a dress boot of the seventeenth century. A much more exaggerated version can be seen in Chinese operatic and theatrical dress of the present day. Such boots would be worn with wide baggy trousers bound to the leg and tucked into the tops of the boots, which are usually hidden by a long gown. While the quilting of the stockings is traditional for Chinese winter wear, the use of fine silk for the legs points to a good quality garment, probably for dress wear.
Museum Id. No:
1685 B no. 318: Calapedia quorum superiores partes & circumferentiae solearum nigro holoserico obducuntur
To Faculty of Modern History: Court Culture page

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