Foot binding was a practice in China for almost 1,000 years - ending only in the 20th century. Small feet were considered very feminine in Chinese society and, the smaller a woman's feet, the more likely it would be for her to find a wealthy husband.
A mother or grandmother started to
bind her daughter's or granddaughter's feet when the child was around four
to seven years old. The process was started before the arch of the foot
had a chance to properly develop and usually started during the winter
months so that the feet were numb and the pain would not be as extreme.
This process led to deformation of the foot and great pain to the bound woman. In addition to finding the bound foot sexually appealing, it would also mean a woman's complete devotion as it was painful for her to walk and wander out of the house without an escort to help her.
The downside, aside from the pain, was that a woman's bound feet would smell terrible thanks to the colony of fungus that would occupy the unwashable folds of the binding cloth.
There are still woman alive today that endured the pain of foot binding. These photos document the incredible lengths that people went through for impossibly small feet.