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

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    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.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora