Just a few snaps that I’ve had lying about with nowhere to post. All of them were taken in various touristy spots, so we get a peek at the Chinese tourist style.
Haven’t posted anything in a while now. It’s because I’ve been away, enjoying myself in a brilliant little village – but that’s a whole different story and I’ll tell you more about it later. Apart from that I’ve been having problems uploading pictures. So for now something quick, just to keep abreast. Here are two photos I took in the autumn.
Oops, didn’t realise it was that blurry. But anyway, the lady seemed to be in a bit of a rush, so I didn’t want to stop her to take a better shot. But as soon as I glimpsed her I stopped in my tracks and told myself “Quick! Get her! Get her!”. You might think she doesn’t look terribly outstanding, but let me tell you that she really stood out. The colours are bright and brave, but there’s not a speck of pink, lace or sequins on her, and she’s neither grey and frowzy nor looking like an overgrown eight-year-old on the way to a party. When I asked her if I could take a photo, because I think she looks very interesting, she said very surprised: “But it’s not fashionable at all!”. Who cares about fashion, she was just being her own person! All in all, this is probably the most unique ensemble I’ve seen here and I love it, warts and all.
This is a much more popular look, although usually it’s not as extreme. Lace, faux leather and shoes with flowers on them, all together. I took the photo and ran away, this girl was giving me the Freezing Stare of Death…
There’s been a lot of posting about the weather, flowers, spring etc. lately – more will come on this subject, but in the meantime I think it’s good not to cloy you with those colourful images and to post a few shorts about other stuff.
So, for now, let’s see how Chinese students of the Arts Academy dress. The first two pictures were taken during the students’ exhibition and the third one randomly while leaving the building.
The third lady’s hair: I don’t know if it’s just died or if it’s an actual wig, but I think it looks both awesome and slightly scary… Anyway, I’ve a feeling that back home the third look would probably be more associated with the artsy and strange crowd from the Fine Arts Academy, while the first two would be more typical of departments like philosophy or linguistics. Here the arts students tend to dress more… I don’t know how to put it – tomboyishly? Pink and frills are the domain of more mainstream girls on the look-out (think Legally Blonde). In fact I seem to recall this lady saying that she’s not from our uni… Anyway. Never mind.
I’ve been seeing this all the time, everywhere, ever since I arrived. One night I saw this lady and, having my camera with me, gathered up the courage to go over and ask if I could take a photo.
Me: Sooo… Could I? Because I’d like to show the people back home what people wear here… And I think your outfit is very… erm… interesting…
Her: You mean back home people wouldn’t go out in their PJ’s?
Me: Erm… Yeah.
That was sometime in October. And afterwards winter kicked in and everyone started producing the cold-weather version:
I’m actually still in two minds about it. On one hand: yes, it’s not too attractive. And the air here is really dirty, so I don’t know if I’d like to go to bed in something I’ve just been wearing outside (or maybe these are their daytime, outdoor PJ’s? Who knows?). But then on the other hand… isn’t it nice that they just don’t care?
PS: And here’s the big surprise: seems like someone in the haute couture spent their holiday in China and got inspired, because apparently it’s the new hot trend! So here I am, laughing at it, when in about three months it’ll be all over the streets everywhere, only upgraded to silks and satin… Actually I really hate the idea. It’s one thing to wear it because it’s comfy and you can’t be bothered, and quite another to make it into an uppity fashion statement. Yuck.
I know it’s stretching your patience a bit, posting 3 things in one hour, but I haven’t written a lot lately, have I? And I don’t expect I will in the next couple of days, so I just want to stay on the right side of statistics. It’s the last one for now, I promise.
I glimpsed this lady one night and just had to take a snap. Once again, the old combo: animal print plus shocking pink. And her faux teddy-bear phone protection! But obviously the crazy hair is the real killer.
You’ll think I’m high on cough syrup, but in a weird way I loved her look. She just had the attitude to carry it off, completely wacky. She looks like a crazy librarian on a night out.
Also – didn’t notice it at the time, only now when I’m looking at the photo – it’s interesting to see the difference between her and her boyfriend; their clothes, their expressions, their postures. She – completely over the top and crazy. He – Stone Face. Funny how pictures can bring these things out.
Do you remember the weird wedding clothes and the monstrous green dress I showed you some time ago? The shop where I saw them seems to have made it its business to be the trailblazer of unwearable sartorial items. Another wedding monstrosity I saw there was this:
I think it’s quite obvious that someone’s been watching too many Disney-princess movies or enjoys the aesthetics of kitsch. The dress above must have been their pet model, because after some very minor alterations… they decided to produce it in this colour as well:
I’m sorry, but there is simply no possible explanation for this dress. It’s absolutely hideous. It should never have been made. It is a dress that makes you want to relinquish all clothing and go around naked just so you can avoid all associations with this vile piece. This dress is inexcusable.
…No, my apologies, I take it back. It does actually have one raison d’être: to improve my neglected stomach muscles by making me (literally) laugh out loud every time I pass it.
This young lady walked past me one morning as I was sitting on my bike and waiting for the lights to change. It was only a day or two after I had taken the photo of the two girls which I posted recently. When I saw her delicate dusty pink skirt, I was struck by the contrast between her outfit and that from the other picture, even though the colour premise – pink and black – was in principle the same. For some mysterious reason I felt very taken by the simplicity, the put-togetherness and the subtle details of her look (the heavy shoes give her just that little bit of spunk!). All this pondering happened within about 3 seconds. “I really should take a photo of her”, I thought suddenly – so as the lights changed and people around me started moving forward, I jumped off my bike, dragged it onto the pavement and ran after her.
This, in short, was the moment when I turned 180 degrees around, let go of my original idea (which was basically to have a laugh at some poor dressers’ expense) and decided to do something much more real and interesting. I hope you’ll like it!
This is the first of a series of posts that I for one am very much looking forward to, namely: Chinese street fashion. I can hear all the men out there running away to hide behind their computer games consoles and beers – but fear not, gentlemen: the pictures will be mostly of young ladies, so to each their own. In case anyone is wondering about this gender/age prejudice: well, older people tend to dress unimpressively and men might think I’m trying to pick them up. Yes, I’m trying to move out of my comfort zone, but one step at a time, please! For now it’s embarrassing enough to accost people on the streets, without the added complications.
The idea came to me as I was walking round the lake and looking at the displays of bad taste that can be observed in that area: night gowns in the middle of the day (a big no-no – nothing looks as trashy as a shiny polyester frock in broad daylight…), shoes visibly a few sizes too big (I blame internet shopping), lots and lots of sequins, frills, clashing colours, little kittens, pandas, hedgehogs etc. etc. – all of the above as often as not combined in one outfit. Some of the combinations were – to my eyes – tacky and garish to the point of being fascinating. ‘Someone must show it to the world’ – I thought. – ‘This is too weird, the notion of fashion they have here – and I will make it my mission to spread the word’. So there you go. I’m not proud of it, but it did start with my very smug ideas about sartorial elegance.
Then a funny thing happened: as I started looking around the city to catch more of this anti-elegance, I suddenly realised that between the dominating blandness (much like back home) and the admittedly large percentage of simply kitschy stuff, there’s also a lot of goodness going on. ‘Hang on” – I thought again – ‘it would be unfair to show only the bad stuff. One should try to get the whole picture’. Thus my crusade began – and soon I’ll become known as the Creepy Foreign Photo Stalker who harasses people on the streets and takes their pictures. My aim right now is not to be too judgemental – obviously there will be things I’ll like more than others and I can’t help but be affected by my own notions of the normal, the ugly or the interesting, but the unwritten rule I set for myself is: if I think it stands out from the crowd, it goes. If it stands out in a good way – all the better. It’s always nicer to explain things to people when I can be genuinely enthusiastic (as opposed to reverting to diplomacy and stammer: ‘So I noticed your golden leopard tights and your frilly dress and ugh… hmm… yes… I thought they looked…. uhm… interesting…).
It’s also an interesting experiment from the social point of view: I’m learning to approach people and talk to them so as not to creep them out. I feel like my being a foreigner in this case is an asset: whatever I say, they’ll just put it down to the queer foreign ways. If I was local, they’d probably think I’m a government spy or something…
So, to sum up: I hope you’ll enjoy this peek into the look of Chinese streets and sorry for the quality of the photos. They’re usually taken in a hurry, so no time to fidget with the camera.
For the sake of honesty I’ll start with the first one I took, still full of my ignoble motives: the girl on the left embodies a very popular local trend of combining pink, black, animal spots and bow-ties. Her friend on the right looks very normal (in the sense of not standing out from the local crowd, not of my personal opinion!). They were both very nice and obliging.* *Don’t worry – if the photos are taken overtly, like the one above, I always ask if I may use them on the blog. We want to keep things legal and moral here, peeps…
PS: After some consideration it finally dawned on me that the people who give the Hangzhou Style such bad rep might in fact not be locals at all. The city is full of tourists and migrant workers from the country who probably just want to look their Sunday best while on a trip to the Big Bustling Metropolis. All the more reason for me to be ashamed for wanting to laugh at them here…
Anyone remembers the wedding garments whose pictures I posted some time ago? Here’s another classic item of clothing, from the same shop:
Okay, all right, laugh all you want, but I’ll tell you a secret. I might actually be persuaded to WEAR this Pollock-like creation of a deranged mind who fancies him/herself a second Galliano (not that being the original Galliano would be anything to brag about, mind you. The guy seems a bit creepy, to put it very delicately).
But only if I still had cropped hair, to off-set the dress in an ironic way. And possibly with some heavy leather shoes to go with it – it’s called fashion fusion.
And, honestly, ONLY to a carnival fancy-dress party.