China Chic: East Meets West

Overview

China Chic is the first book to explore the evolution of Chinese dress, from the dragon robes and lotus shoes of the imperial era to the creation of new fashions like the cheongsam and the "Mao suit" that symbolised modern Chinese identity. For China specialists, the focus on fashion will open up an entirely new way of thinking about modern Chinese culture and society. For readers whose primary interest is fashion, China Chic demolishes the Eurocentric myth of an ancient, ...
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New Haven, CT 1999 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 208 p. Contains: Illustrations. Audience: General/trade. Oversize book 11.5 X 9.5. Clean, ... tight copy with no writing. APPEARS NEVER TO HAVE BEEN READ! As new dust jacket with light shelf wear for its age. Read more Show Less

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Overview

China Chic is the first book to explore the evolution of Chinese dress, from the dragon robes and lotus shoes of the imperial era to the creation of new fashions like the cheongsam and the "Mao suit" that symbolised modern Chinese identity. For China specialists, the focus on fashion will open up an entirely new way of thinking about modern Chinese culture and society. For readers whose primary interest is fashion, China Chic demolishes the Eurocentric myth of an ancient, unchanging mode of dress.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Stephanie Zacharek

China's influence on fashion is everywhere you look. Mandarin collars and dragon-brocade silk have become so commonplace that they're universally accepted as part of the classic Chinese look. But to those who haven't thought about it much, Chinese fashion prior to the 20th century seems like a monotonous timeline of long brocade robes.

In China Chic, Valerie Steele and John S. Major, along with a handful of other experts on Chinese history and clothing, do all they can to dispel that misconception, presenting in a relatively brief space a solid overview of Chinese fashion through the centuries, with an emphasis on how Chinese culture has influenced the rest of the world during this century. Steele, the chief curator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and Major, a scholar of Chinese history, are able guides, particularly when they're outlining China's influence on such contemporary Western designers as John Galliano, Christian Lacroix and Anna Sui.

Other sections of the book trace the history of foot binding, the development of the Maoist uniform and the changes in Chinese fashion before and during the Cultural Revolution. Individuality has always found ways to flourish. Verity Wilson, an assistant curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, explains how in the 1960s many urban Chinese were able to afford certain luxuries -- their own cameras, for instance: "At the Chinese New Year Festival in the early 1970s, Tiananmen Square in Beijing was crowded with people trying out their new cameras. People who did not have cameras formed long queues behind government photographers whose tripods dotted the square. The sitters smoothed their hair and adjusted their clothing. They carefully took up a position. A cherished watch was revealed by folding back a cuff before the shutter clicked. A 'good' profile was turned toward the lens. There were choices to be made."

But it's the pictures that really tell the story here. From the photographs included in China Chic, it's easy to see how the cheung sam -- the fitted high-collar dress that Westerners think of as the traditional dress of China -- evolved from the long, loose-fitting robes worn by Manchu women in the 19th century. Similarly, it's easy to see the relationship between the gorgeous but restrictive cheung sam and contemporary designer Vivienne Tam's columnar stretch-net dresses, which are screen-printed with dragons or cartoonified images of Mao Zedong.

Perhaps most fascinating of all are the tiny, wedge-shaped satin shoes worn by women with bound feet. One pair from the 1800s, made from aqua and cotton-candy-pink silk, sport fancifully embroidered bats on their soles. They're shoes for a woman who would need to be carried, her deformed feet having rendered her almost completely dependent on men. It's almost shocking that the remnants of such a barbaric custom should be so exquisite and appealing, but there they are: a reminder that cultural practices we're unable to condone can still result in spectacular works of art -- even if, in this case, these boots weren't made for walkin'. -- Salon

Library Journal
Fashion designers often borrow design details from Chinese dress, but what is not often understood is that Chinese costume, far from being static throughout centuries, actually absorbed influences from outside, albeit at a slower pace. In this interesting survey, Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) curator Steele and historian Major (Heaven and Earth in Early Han Thought, SUNY, 1993) explore the progression of Chinese historic constume from its 4000-year-old dynastic elegance through 20th-century Maoist modernism. Fashionable Western clothing often was, and still is, imbued with romantic Orientalism, by use of lavish, exotic embroidery, vibrant silks, and silhouettes, collars, or fastenings characteristic of Chinese dress. These elements are beautifully illustrated in 100 color and 40 black-and-white photographs. While the book accompanies a show at FIT, it is not a catalog but stands on its own. This is a well-produced, well-written book for anyone interested in fashion, and it is highly recommended for both academic and larger public libraries.Therese Duzinkiewicz Baker, Western Kentucky Univ. Libs., Bowling Green
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300079302
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/1999
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 9.40 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword
Notes on the Contributors
The Principal Dynasties of China
Introduction and Acknowledgments 1
1 Decoding Dragons: Clothing and Chinese Identity 13
2 From Foot Binding to Modern Fashion 37
3 Fashion Revolution: The Maoist Uniform 55
4 China Chic: East Meets West 69
5 "Our Women are Acting Like Foreigners' Wives!": Western Influences on Tang Dynasty Women's Fashion 103
6 Military Culture and Chinese Dress in the Early Twentieth Century 119
7 "A Woman Has So Many Parts to Her Body, Life is Very Hard Indeed" 133
8 Jazzing into Modernity: High Heels, Platforms, and Lotus Shoes 141
9 The Cheung Sam: Issues of Fashion and Cultural Identity 155
10 Dress and the Cultural Revolution 167
Notes 187
Selected Bibliography 192
Index 196
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