This unusually small pair of slippers with its beaded and couched embroidery uppers and flat leather soles (there are no heels) was intended for a Straits Chinese child, probably a page girl, as part of a wedding costume.
The beadwork and embroidery against a velvet ground has been arrayed as butterflies and peonies. The beads used are particularly fine.
Rocaille beads were made in southern France and were widely used in Singapore and the other Straits Settlements for beading slippers, wedding pillow ends, betel set mats and other paraphernalia associated with baba/nonya culture. The Straits Chinese referred to the beads as manek potong (‘cut beads’) and acquired them from street peddlers and specialist merchants for the purpose of beading and embroidery
The pair is in fine condition. There is some loss to the velvet around the edging but all the beadwork and embroidery is intact.
Straits wedding slippers made for children are relatively rare.
Cheah, H.F., Phoenix Rising: Narratives in Nyonya Beadwork from the Straits Settlements, NUS Press, Singapore, 2010.
Ee, R., et al, Peranakan Museum A-Z Guide, Asian Civilisations Museum, 2008.
Ho, W.M., Straits Chinese Beadwork & Embroidery: A Collector’s Guide, Times Books International, 1987.
Khoo, J.E., The Straits Chinese: A Cultural History, The Pepin Press, 1996.