News / Asia

Q&A with Sean Metzger: Chinese Fashion in the International Eye

FILE - Retired female workers dressed as red army soldiers sing revolutionary songs.
FILE - Retired female workers dressed as red army soldiers sing revolutionary songs.
The ways people in the west have viewed those in China have changed greatly over the past 150 years thanks to the evolution of communication, photography, news and movies. In large part, fashion and traditional forms of dress have helped to shape opinions and thoughts on culture and politics on the other side of the world.
 
Sean Metzger, Assistant Professor of Performance Studies in the University of California at Los Angeles School of Theater, Film and Television, told VOA’s Jim Stevenson about his study of Chinese fashion in his new book, Chinese Looks: Fashion, Performance, Race.
 
Q&A with Sean Metzger: Chinese Fashion in the International Eye
Q&A with Sean Metzger: Chinese Fashion in the International Eyei
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X

METZGER:  One of the things that has been interesting to me is what kinds of new fashions are marking China today. That sort of seems to mark one direction of Xi Jinping’s “Chinese Dream.” One of the opening images in my book from 2005, a Newsweek cover, shows actress Zhang Ziyi in a qípáo-like top over blue jeans, and that kind of hybrid image to me, suggests, or anticipates, Xi Jinping’s drive for a new “Chinese Dream” today - something that’s not quite formulated, something that’s between the west and something more traditionally Chinese.
 
STEVENSON:  Certainly over the past century, the qípáo has really been an iconic dress that many of us can identify with as Chinese and even to this day in traditional weddings it’s used.
 
METZGER:  Yes, that’s right, the qípáo emerges in the 1920s and 1930s as a kind of equivalent to what men were wearing. So before, that is before the 1920s, men wore - as a traditional costume – a kind of long gown called changpao. That long gown was a contrast to what women were wearing, which was kind of a long tunic and loose pants.
 
As a kind of way to make women more equal to men, as women started to enter public discourse for the first time in China, they came up with this new dress. The qípáo as time went on became much more form-fitting, the hem became higher and higher and higher, so its original, kind of political connotations, became much more about women’s sexuality, particularly in the Cold War period.
 
So in the Cold War period, of course, that meant in Hong Kong, because only in the beginning of the Maoist era in China could you wear a qípáo for official functions. After that time, the Maoist government denied women the ability to wear non-Maoist uniform costumes for official events.
 
That dress was in vogue for the 1950s and 1960s – very, very provocative with associations. And like many fashion trends, it fell out of favor, and then it was only sort of revived in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
 
STEVENSON:  Many of our stereotypes of the Chinese come from fashion and dress and what we see in movies and film, and let’s talk a little bit about the beginning of your book and the queue.
 
METZGER:  One of my readers actually had said the queue actually appears in lots of cultural productions that actually depicts the end of the Qing Dynasty. So anything that’s set in, you know, basically from 1644 to 1911 in China is likely to depict queues.
 
But in the U.S. that was a little different because we don’t really have so many epics about the Taiping fighting the ruling feudal powers or whatever. What I noticed was that the queue kept occurring in very particular contexts, and that context was at first in melodramas that depicted the Western frontier in the U.S., and then that morphed into what we know as the Western, the film that is. So that became the arc of the chapter.
 
STEVENSON:  The Mao suit is quite an interesting entity of its own.
 
METZGER:  One of the interesting things that I found out when I was doing my research was that Maoist clothing varied quite a lot. But when the outfits started to register for the U.S. public, and to some extent the European public, people consolidated the variation in clothing in under one term. So whatever people were wearing, they ended up calling it a Mao suit. That could be like boiler suits for people working. There are very famous depictions of Mao with his white shirt and his sleeves rolled up going to work. All of those things ended up getting called “the Maoist uniform,” even when the jacket wasn’t present, which I found interesting. And again, there were variations throughout the communist period. I think it’s interesting that in the West we have tended to say “oh, Maoist uniform is so much about conformity,” but in fact, there was quite a lot of variation among the different outfits that people wore and were wearing during the Cold War in China.

Jim Stevenson

For over 35 years, Jim Stevenson has been sharing stories with the world on the radio and internet. From both the field and the studio, Jim enjoys telling about specific events and uncovering the interesting periphery every story possesses. His broadcast career has been balanced between music, news, and sports, always blending the serious with the lighter side.

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid