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

    Former US Envoys Urge Obama to Delay Troop Cuts in Afghanistan

    Keeping troop levels up during conflict with both Taliban and Islamic State is necessary to support Kabul government, they say

    First Lady to Visit Africa to Promote Girls' Education

    Michele Obama will be joined by daughters and actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto

    Video NYSE Analyst: Brexit Will Continue to Place Pressure on Markets

    Despite orderly pricing and execution strategy at the New York Stock Exchange, analyst explains added pressure on world financial markets is likely

    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.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora