Chinese Fashion Designs Part VII


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June 10, 2010

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Since his earliest days in power, Mao recognized the power of dress fashion to present a shared national identity. The shapeless four-pocketed worker's jacket he favored became the dominant dress fashion for Chinese men and women from the 1950s to the 1970s. It favored the not-any-difference between genders, social ranks, economical situations; it was prone "equalization of people". Known as the "Mao suit" in the West, it briefly found favor among political radicals in Europe and the United States.

There was a widespread political as well as social and psychological dramatic upheaval accomplished by the Chinese Revolution led by the Communists. Almost in a glimpse it changed the lifestyle, clothing fashion in even the most remote villages of China. From factory workers to technicians, everyone was issued dark blue cotton cloth uniforms that were almost identical to the standard green Communist military uniform. Administrative and clerical workers were also outfitted in gray versions of the same clothes. Men and women wore exactly the same garments. This was the Communist order, in every single aspect of life including obviously political opinions, fashion.

Around the Destruction of the "Four Olds" (Old Customs, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Ideas) period in 1964, almost anything seen as part of Traditional Chinese culture would lead to problems with the Communist Red Guards. Items that attracted dangerous attention if caught in the public included jeans, high heels, Western-style coats, ties, jewelry, cheongsams, and long hair. These items were regarded as symbols of bourgeois lifestyle, which represented wealth. Citizens had to avoid them or suffer serious consequences such as torture or beatings by the guards. A number of these items were thrown into the streets to embarrass the citizens.

Western-style fashion suits suddenly disappeared, replaced by the gray Chinese tunic suit which quickly became standardized. To dress fashionably was not patriotic meanwhile no direct orders were issued, so that clothing made of expensive fabric was discouraged. Women had to put away their anti patriotic stylish silk stockings, high-heeled shoes, cosmetics and jewelry. People dressed in blue or gray cotton, padded for winter wear. Those who refused to comply with the new style could expect a public reprimand or a lecture from one of the local Communist Party officials.

During the first decade of the People's Republic of China (1949-59) the Soviet Union also performed a strong influence on Chinese economics, industry, art education, clothing, culture and fashion.

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