Booties (pair), girls, silk / cardboard / metal, China, mid 1900s
As a predominantly rural society with a high mortality rate, it was the ambition of parents to have a large family. To ensure the continuation of a family line, children¬?s clothing and footwear was decorated with auspicious designs as a means of providing supernatural protection from evil forces as well as to ensure great success in the future. Decorative garments such as this were worn on special occasions such as Chinese New Year or other significant occasions, such as the 100 days celebration of a child's life.
Symbolism is a significant part of Chinese life. Chinese embroidery is one of China¬?s oldest art forms. The symbolism of Chinese embroidered motifs is an important decorative feature that invests meaning in clothing.
This pair of red satin booties embroidered with the phoenix, the toe shaped to resemble the phoenix and trimmed with silk whiskers exemplifies the meanings and symbolism Chinese mothers and grandmothers use to protect their children.
The embroidered phoenix motif featured on the booties, is a mythical bird signifying goodness, benevolence and the hope that the wearer would rise to an influential position in society. The phoenix is also symbolic of the female principle, yin, and of the Empress. Very young children would wear satin booties when carried in their baby carrier on special occasions providing a colourful sight as mother and child approached. The colours red and pink were frequently used because these were considered auspicious.