Slipper faces (2), unmade, cotton velvet / cotton / cotton thread / glass beads / starch, Nyonya women, Penang, Malaysia, 1920-1930

Made by Nyonya women in Penang, West Malaysia, Malaysia, Asia, 1920-1939.

This pair of slipper faces are a fine examples of traditional embroidered and beaded footwear from Malaysia made in the early 20th century by ethnic Chinese women. These faces were made by women of the Chinese community living in Malaysia and therefore are a nice complement to shoes for bound feet as worn by Han Chinese women of the same period.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, a distinctive Chinese community evolved in Peninsular Malaya. The group flourished in the former British colonies alon...

Summary

2004/13/5
Slipper faces (2), unmade, cotton velvet / cotton / cotton thread / glass beads / starch, Nyonya women, Penang, Malaysia, 1920-1930.

Emerald green cotton velvet rectangle with two layers of printed cotton glued and machine sewn to the reverse side. The outlines of two round toed slipper faces have been marked on the velvet and a design of tiny white glass has been applied to the faces. It appears to be a stylised peacock with two black beads for an eye with a plant at each side. The faces appear ready to be cut out and sent to the cobbler for manufacture into slippers.

Dimensions

195 mm
246 mm

Production

These uppers were made by Nyonya women in Penang, Malaysia in the 1920s-1930s.

The uppers were embroidered by Nyonya, ethnic Chinese women living in Malaysia. In the 18th and 19th centuries, a distinctive Chinese community evolved in Peninsular Malaya. The group flourished in the former British colonies alongthe Straits of Malacca, namely, Penang, Malacca and Singapore. The community is referred to as Straits Chinese, also known as Chinese Baba or simply Baba. The women are called Nyonya.

The Nyonya crafted only the uppersides of the slipper. The ground fabric was loosely stretched over a rectangular wooden frame and embroidered or beaded. When completed, the embroidered pieces were cut out, pasted with sago starch onto layers of gauze or cotton, and made into slippers by a cobbler.
Nyonya women 1920-1939

History

These uppers were used by Nyonya women in Penang, Malaysia.

From the late 19th century until WWII young Nyonya of marriageable age were taught to sew and embroider articles for their personal use as well as for their wedding ceremony. These included pillow covers, bed hangings and decorative panels used in the bridal chamber. Of special significance was the embroidering and beading of the wedding slippers. The prospective bride prepared a range of slippers to be presented as part of her wedding dowry, to the groom and his family. To show off the bride's work a special showcase of embroidered footwear was displayed in the bridal chamber. A pair of beaded slippers sewn by the bride herself would be worn for the first time on the third day of the wedding, and thereafter worn on less ceremonial occasions and eventually becoming casual footwear.
Nyonya women 1920-1930

Source

Gift of Roger Grellman, 2004
9 February, 2004

Cite this Object

Slipper faces (2), unmade, cotton velvet / cotton / cotton thread / glass beads / starch, Nyonya women, Penang, Malaysia, 1920-1930 2014, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 25 June 2017, <https://ma.as/320016>
{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/320016 |title=Slipper faces (2), unmade, cotton velvet / cotton / cotton thread / glass beads / starch, Nyonya women, Penang, Malaysia, 1920-1930 |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=25 June 2017 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
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