Sunday, April 10, 2011

Beauty in Beads - Peranakan style

Step back into a bygone era of  the Peranakan.

I love things Peranakan - food, culture, clothings.  It was a sheer delight to  walk into the  Malaysia International Shoe Festival 2011 at the PWTC to see a part of Peranakan culture alive.

I joined some curious shoppers  who were gathered round  a lady dressed in nyonya  kebaya working on a 'face' for a nyonya shoe. It is a labour of love and skill , ingredients  necessary to keep this art alive. In the days of old, young nyonya women  were taught to cook, sew and embroider  for them to find suitors. The nubile ladies  were expected to present  several pairs of embroidered slippers  to the groom's family on her wedding day. Love's labour , one might say for the  intricate work  involved months of labour.

Get dressed from top to toe, Peranakan style.  These samples are done and ready to beautify shoes. The tiny colourful beads or manek potong are miniscule Venetian glass faceted beads. See how the motif comes alive with the vibrant designs and colours  .

A lady dressed in a kebaya  was working  on the motif. The beads are picked one by one and stitched  painstakingly. No room for mistakes. The frame holds the cloth firmly to ease the sewing.  

Even to this day, a nyonya lady   takes pride in matching  her shoes with her kebaya.  

Beauty on your feet

Just next to this activity,  a' mystery box' awaited shoppers. What fun it was right inside! I read about the largest Chocolate Nyonya Shoe weighing 130 kg and measuring 3.6 m long, 1.2 m wide and 0.64 m high.  There it was, standing elegant. Talk about fitting into someone's shoes!

Step right in -  a hit with visitors

This nyonya shoe is meant for a 70 foot lady!!

If anyone was tempted to pluck off one of those beads,  beady eyes of a staff were watching his or her every move. I came close just to sniff more of the chocolate.  These beads of chocolate are for real - all of marzipan and black and white chocolate. I just hope some kids  don't throw a tantrum and grab the choc beads ( balls) just like that! For that would really spoil the handiwork of the chief artist  of YTL Hotels, Frankie Lee. It took him a month to accomplish that feat.

See the phoenix design on the big shoe? Designs are inspired by nature and mythical figures. Even this gentleman is charmed by this beautiful shoe.

  It's not Willie Wonka's  Chocolate factory but  The Mystery Box at the  Malaysia International Shoe Festival 2011 at PWTC. A whopper of  marzipan and black and white choc , weighing 130 kg in total.  

Caught in the act? Hands off, Keats!! Well,  just couldn't resist a very close look at the  yummy beads - Malteses, anyone?? 

Astonishing facts to  WALK into the Malaysian  Guiness Book of Records.

I had  some fun finding out my ideal heel height for that well  proportioned look. Well, that afternoon, I was in my flatties. To look great, I have to be wearing 6 cm heels. That seems alright for the odd night  out for an occasion. So I'll keep that in mind and try not to topple over and stride in full confidence!!

Standing tall against a wall chart - 156 cm.   

The assistant punching in my statistics on a handy electronic calculator..  He read my height. When it came to the navel to sole, he said, 'You have to do it yourself!'  What do you think? -  I need a 6 cm  or 2.4 inch heels  to look well - proportioned. !!  

Here's a maths formula for you to crack your pretty head  over it. Discover for yourself how well proportioned you are!  

Good tips to serve you well before buying shoes. 


  1. oh, Keats, this is too funny! That chocolate shoe looks much healthier than my broken shoe the other day! :)

  2. Oh Keats, if I have to knit and sew like that I would never find a suitor.

    The colors of the Peranakan is really sweet yet spectacular. And you are right, everything Peranakan is really nice.

    The shoe is incredible. And you are cute in your acts, were you on your 6cm heels??;)

    You are great to go to all these nice places and share them with us. I am always a tourist when I'm with you;)

  3. Incredible art! I hope this passes on to the next generation too. Nice captures of you. Great shots by Ravi I guess. :)

  4. Beaded shoes are IN again! I used to see my mom's beaded shoes in days gone by...they sure were a labour of love with their vibrant colours and designs!

  5. Takes a lot of skill, detail and patience to make this lovely shoes. But they are such a treasure.

  6. What a fun post about a shoe festival. I love it!!

  7. That is unbelievable.They look too good to be worn!Are they expensive?

  8. wow...that's a huge shoe to fill in ;) I saw the ad about this...guess, I missed the trip. Happy week ahead Keats.

  9. What an interesting festival! A pair of beaded Nyonya shoes can indeed be really expensive. Depending on the quality of beads that are used, it can cost quite a bundle! That chocolate shoes is really something! That's an amazing work of art! Thank you for sharing this lovely post!

  10. That shoe is really something eh... very interesting artwork...

  11. Keats, Malaysia can't find a better cultural ambassador than you! What a great write-up! My late grandma loved beaded Nyonya slippers and purses. When I see the slippers, I have a hard time holding back tears as everything reminds me of her. As for the phoenix and dragon motif -- that's me! The Chinese believe that male-female fraternal twins are represented by the dragon and phoenix respectively. So my twin brother's the dragon and I am the phoenix!

  12. I love that giant shoe! It is gorgeous. That picture made me laugh out loud with you pretending to sneak a piece. :)
    I am glad someone has the patience to bead. It is tedious work but probably very rewarding.

  13. Excelentes diseños, incluso el gigante es muy hermoso. Que gran aporte de tu parte.


    Postes de madera

  14. that is amazing! what beautiful bead work!

  15. thanks for featuring the nyonya beaded shoes!! the choc shoe is such a nice work!!

  16. Yummy beaded shoes..Lady Gaga should get her measurement checked here before she falls again..tQ

  17. Very beautiful beads made into lovely artworks. I don't wear heels, because my back tends to hurt. But, I sure do love to see these wonderful creations. Have a blessed week.


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