In This Episode

Last episode we celebrated the Force with an acquisition from Tahitian artist Tahe, who’s pop art is steeped in Polynesian tradition. Now, traveling to China, we unravel another beautifully decorated and adorned tradition: Chinese foot binding.

Today: Lily Slipper Bound in Tradition

Share & Subscribe

If you liked the show, please share it with your peeps. Remember to SUBSCRIBE to our channel to stay BION-informed!

Subscribe to our YouTube channel!


Take it from the unachievable transformations of the entire Kardashian clan—women will go to great lengths in order to be deemed beautiful. Beyond Calabasas and before reality TV, women in 10th Century China were taking it to a Kylie-level extreme. Forget slicing, dicing and injecting, these women were deliberately crippling themselves to conform to cultural ideals of beauty.

The aftermath of years of foot binding

The aftermath of years of foot binding

The foot binding process began as early as age four. The toes would be broken, pressed down flat against the sole and secured with silk wrappings. Over time, with the weight of walking, the bones would break and the arch of the foot would rise, allowing the heel to almost touch the metatarsals, folding nearly in half like a crescent moon.

Whether it was their tottering gait or the notion that these women never had to lift a finger, bound feet became so alluring and attractive that they were nearly required in order to find a suitable husband. Due to this, successive generations of Chinese women endured the painful practice for nearly ten centuries.



In Victorian England, it was deemed fashionable for a woman’s waist to be the same size as her head

Foot binding was banned in 1912, but equally unbelievable beauty regimes have been around for ages…

  • Ancient Greeks and Romans would bath in mud mixed with freshly-harvested crocodile excrement, which was also used for anti-aging face masks!
  • In 1936, Isabella Gilbert invented the spring-loaded dimple machine—a contraption that indented the cheeks by tightly pressing a pair of knobs into them.
  • During the 1800s women wanting to shed some weight would swallow tapeworm larvae in pill form! The worms would grow and grow until they had to be surgically removed!
  • In the Age of Enlightenment, aristocratic paleness was in. To achieve a ghostly appearance, women would apply a powder made of white lead, calcium carbonate and hydroxide to their flesh! Over time the toxins caused horrifying side effects, from inflammation to baldness.
  • Women in Meiji era Japan would lacquer their teeth black!


With 32 odditoriums around the world, as well as traveling shows to fill with the oddest items imaginable, the team at Ripley’s never stops looking for new and bizarre exhibits to expand our collection. Once acquired, those freaky finds make their first appearance at the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! warehouse, where they are unboxed, uncrated and unwrapped! Join us as we take a look at our purchases for the very first time, unboxing the truly unbelievable.