People will do anything for fashion. It’s a trend of chasing new styles and methods of expression at the expense of form or function, all in the effort of fitting into the hippest craze.

Being fashionable is a symbol of wealthiness. It shows people that you have money to spend on the most expensive brands and products to look just like those born rich or got very, very lucky.

It puts them in the elite, even if it’s just for a day, but some of those fashion choices become fashion consequences.

There have been plenty of detrimental fashion practices done in the effort of staying “with it.”

Anorexic thinness, corsets that warp and squish the waistline and internal organs, piercings over what the skin can tolerate, hair colors that kill the hair itself, wigs heavier than most wooden stands that hold them; it’s a painful world of fashion.

Some trends for quick good looks came with debilitating side effects and lifetimes of disfigurement, such as with the not-so-ancient practice of foot binding.

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10 /10 Lotus Feet

The origin of foot binding in China is unclear. The earliest accounts come from the 3rd century in the Southern Qi Empire.

Pan Yunu, a consort of the Emperor, was renowned for having particularly delicate feet and performing light and beautiful dances.

She danced in a room with golden lotus decorations on the floor, which reminded the Emperor of the Buddhist legend of Padmavati, who grew lotus blossoms wherever she stepped.

This is where the term “lotus feet,” which described the binding practice, came from, but her feet were never bound.

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9 /10 Lotus Dancing

The practice seemed to originate as an actual act around the 10th century, just before the Song dynasty.

Emperor Li Yu created a 6-foot tall golden lotus treasure with lots of gems and pearls and asked his concubine to dance around it.

But, he wanted her feet to be curled like crescents so only her toes would touch the tips of the bloom. That was impossible due to how feet work, so she bound them in white silk to fix them in place and performed.


8 /10 High-Class Discomfort

The dance was allegedly so popular that it spread among the court’s noble ladies and social elites. The practice of foot binding became more concrete and was written about in poems shared across the dynasty.

These survived even further until they were confirmed by scholar Zhang Bangji in 1148, who stated the practice itself seemed to start around then, and that the previous era had no mention of it in books.

7 /10 Early Adopters

In practice, the earliest physical records found from tombs of foot binding came from two young ladies, aged approximately 17 and the other older, whose feet were still wrapped in 6 feet of special gauze.

Their skeletons were well preserved enough to determine their age and gender, but their feet were mangled and crushed, broken in multiple places to form a steep curve that fit into their tiny, pointed slippers that were only just wider than what their ankles would have been.

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6 /10 Pageant Children

The process of foot binding had to start young. Children as young as four would undergo the procedure, which was varied across regions but always came to the same conclusive shape.

First, the foot was soaked to soften; then, it was forced down into a tight and very short shoe.

The toes were pressed in and pushed on until they broke, and the foot’s arch grew up higher and higher over the years.

The process took years. Eventually, the feet were broken so much they became nearly level with the shin bone.

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5 /10 Hans And Haven'ts

The practice was done across China throughout its middle ages, which had a vast share of ethnic groups representative of much of Eastern Asia.

Certain Muslim groups such as the Hui and the Dungan forbade the practice citing it as an insult to God’s creation. Other less common Chinese groups like the Hakka didn’t do it at all.

The Manchu and Mongol-Chinese women didn’t perform foot binding but simulated it with regular tight shoes with block-like stilts, which affected the same footstep size as a bound foot.

4 /10 Ming To Modern

The practice made its way through the Song Dynasty and persisted through the long and storied Ming, which lasted until 1916 until the country was reformed into a Republic.

Around that time, discourse began to form against the old practice, which was already slowly phasing out of style as China was opened to the rest of the world.

Feminist causes attempted to positively heighten the practice, saying it gave autonomy to an otherwise oppressed gender, and the bound foot was seen as erotic for a while.

3 /10 Suffer For Fashion

The process was known to generate several terrible health issues. Physical disfigurement was the biggest, but that came with several side effects that went more profound than the skin.

The lack of balance was a prominent issue, as muscular atrophy and degenerated bones were often broken.

Infections from internal bruises or cuts, and external wounds from peeling, necrotic skin were also common. The feet often went numb at some point in the process.


2 /10 Golden Standards

The standards for what constituted a beautiful foot size were seen as too extreme to Western learners.

The “golden lotus” measurement, the smallest and most elegant foot size for a woman, was about 4 inches long as an adult.

The measures were further diminutive with just inches of separation, down to “silver lotus” and then the undesirable, hard-to-marriage “iron lotus” foot bound and broken to six inches long.

1 /10 One Step Ahead

The practice has been phased out since the early 1900s, and few people still have the bound feet, with the practice itself being eradicated among new generations.

Some older women still have bound feet and are crippled because of them but would defend their choices any day for the sake of fashion.

To them, it was a tradition of nobles and extreme self-control. If fashion is the result of pain, foot binding was one of the peaks of old-world fashion.

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