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( Originally Published Mid 1800s )
The Cinderella foot is passe de mode, and if we have cause occasionally to regret a vagary or freak of the "new woman" she deserves to be eternally blessed for having made it the fashion for our feet to bear some harmonious proportion to the frame they are to support, and to have made it no longer true, as cleverly stated well-known author, that the length of a woman's by a skirts is directly proportional to the size of her feet, and that women with large feet are always greatly shocked at the immodesty of those who have small pedal extremities and are "always trying to show them."
Smallness alone was, in my girlhood, the test of beauty in feet, as I recollect it. I remember perfectly my mother's look of surprise and stern disapproval when I had to succumb to a number three shoe, and how we were brought up on a tradition that our maternal grandmother had such tiny feet she always wore children's shoes in size, and had her satin gaiters sewed on her little feet each day that not even a silken lace might interfere with the lines of beauty and symmetry.
But in the emancipation of women, who are no longer dolls or toys, but fine, vigorous, splendid creatures of superb, physical development from tip to toe, feet of proper size to sustain a woman's weight are considered not only more attractive to the eye, but correct form. Unfortunately very few women born before the wave of good sense have sightly feet. Scarcely one woman in a thousand has a foot free from deformity or blemish of some kind.
For generations back women insisted upon wearing shoes too short or too narrow, and shoemakers were compelled to cater to their desires and furnish shoes built almost upon the Chinese plan for the deluded creatures who insisted upon having what they were pleased to consider small feet.
It is also really astonishing that we should have so long submitted to the tyranny of French heels and viselike foot gear. I look at my number five, flat-heeled, broad-soled shoes, in which I walk many and many a mile without fatigue, and think how foolish I once was,-and not so foolish either, for in those days common-sense shoes were not to be had.
Fortunately we know better nowadays, and our little girls are growing up with beautiful, undeformed feet; but, as I have said, so recently have we come to our senses that the woman past thirty with a perfect foot is almost unknown.
Occasionally an actress is said to have a perfect foot, and her fame is made thereby. Yet when "Trilby" was played all over the country by different women, there was never a real Trilby foot that bore unscathed the telltale test of the photographer.
The foot of the average woman should require at least a number five shoe. A large foot on a tiny woman is not beautiful, but on the other hand neither is a tiny little foot artistically pretty or agreeable to gaze upon. It is harmony that makes beauty,-proper proportions that make harmony.
A woman's foot attains its normal size at about twentytwo. Strange to say, the foot at sixteen or seventeen is larger than a few years later. Shoemakers all say that girls between sixteen and seventeen have feet that are not yet shaped. They are fat and flabby. At about twenty the foot gets its proper shape, the flesh grows firmer, the muscles and tendons stronger and the bones become well set. When the foot gets its settled shape a narrower shoe is required, frequently two sizes narrower than could have been worn at sixteen. At about forty a woman's feet go back to the flabby state.
It is true that small feet are considered by many a mark of aristocracy, but they certainly do not indicate superiority of intellect, for many brainy women of supreme intelligence have had very large feet. For example, George Eliot and Mme. de Stael, the most brilliant women intellectually of their day, had such large and ungainly feet that they were made miserable by the consciousness of their undue proportions. Mme. de Stael once ventured to assume the role of a Greek statue in some tableaux vivants, and was grievously offended by the witty Talleyrand's bon mot that he recognized the impersonator at once by the "pied de Stael."
A long hand and foot are said to indicate mental superiority and a capacity for a larger grasp and a greater tenacity of purpose than smaller members. The proper size of a woman's foot varies from five and one-half to nine inches-that is, the foot that has been unrestricted from infancy and permitted to grow as freely as the head, without stricture of any kind. The fashionable Chinese foot is about three and one-half inches in length, and I have seen the feet of women in modern Europe which were reduced by tight squeezing to almost Chinese proportions.
A truly beautiful foot must first be free from all blemishes, and in perfect proportion to the leg and stature. The instep should be high, or moderately high, and the portion under the instep hollow and well raised above the level of the sole, the toes regular and well developed, the heel narrow and nonprojecting-the general outline of the perfect foot is long, slender and graceful. The toes of the beautiful foot, according to Flaxman, should follow each other imperceptibly in a graceful curve from the first to the fifth, and in the Greek foot, according to the most famous statues, the second toe was made longer than the great toe. The beauty of the longer second toe is dis puted. The skin of the main part of the foot should be of an almost marble whiteness, and the toes and heels alone a rosy pink.