Monday, April 23, 2007

Fashionistas of Xiada

I’m always a little tickled by fashion in China. There’s just something different about the aesthetic, which anyone who has ever seen a Chinese ice-skater’s costume already realizes! I struggle with this different fashion sense when trying to buy clothes for Zoe and Maya. I’m just not that into strange cartoon characters and faux English. In desperation for a long-sleeve white t-shirt for Zoe, I actually bought one that said “Cube Fower Make Girl Hoppy!”

Like college kids everywhere, the students of Xiada love to be fashionable. Jeans are absolutely the uniform here, as are American-styled tennis shoes. The boys don’t wear the huge, baggy, barely-hanging-onto-the-hip-bone style in jeans, thank goodness, but they wear long baggy basketball uniforms. Low cut jeans for girls are fashionable here, but I rarely see a midriff or backside – Chinese are a bit more modest than Americans about showing the body (though you would never have guessed that the last time we were at the beach – the men stripped down to their underwear to get into the water!). Baby-doll dresses over jeans is a standard look.

Pointy-toed high heels are popular here, as are boots. The boots the women wear are the ugliest things I’ve ever seen, with lots of straps and buckles and faux fur. They are worn with short flouncy skirts and with leggings. And they are worn with awful “flesh-toned” tights. I’ve always laughed at “flesh-colored” band-aids, because of course they are a color unknown in nature. And the whole concept of a single “flesh-color” is ridiculous in light of skin tones that range from ebony to rice-white. But these tights are exactly the color of those band-aids, and they are EXTREMELY popular here. Hardly anyone wears panty-hose, instead it’s these tights.
The students who seem to be trying hard to be fashionable seem stuck in the ‘80s to me. Over-the-knee fish-net socks or Capri-length fishnet leggings are very popular with short skirts or shorts. Long sweaters over leggings are also popular. And this is often accessorized with a huge hobo bag and an umbrella – whether rain or shine, girls have their umbrellas up to protect their complexions. The Chinese version of chivalrously carrying a girl’s books is the boy carrying her purse and her umbrella.

For the boys, individuality is expressed with the haircut – all the same, of course, like all teen individuality! The long spiky punk-rocker’s hair is the height of fashion. For girls, it is mostly simple long hair, but I’ve seen lots of really bad perms here, too (and I think I know why they are so bad – I got a haircut last week and the salon actually had one of those Medusa-like electric perm machines!). The girls dye their hair, too, though with black hair there isn’t a lot of variety – reddish-brown seems to be the usual choice.

Most of the students here could be easily transplanted to any college campus in the U.S. and would blend right in. But some would need a time machine to go back to a college campus 20 years ago! Or maybe I'm the one out of step, and they would need that time machine to jump into the future with their cutting-edge style!


mimifrancoise said...

Babydoll tops with jeans are de rigueur in college here also...and very pointy,very high heels shoes or boots. In class last week, several young men commented about how uncomfortable the shoes looked. The girls just laughed.

Anonymous said...

I got your site off an IA group (we're adopting through GWCA). Your site is wonderful! Your daughters are gorgeous! Your descriptions of your adventure in Xiamen are fabulous! Thank you for letting me read it.
We went to China 2 years ago with my husbands family, his mother's family is from China. Since we were on a tour there was much we didn't get to see. You are lucky to see, for the lack of a better term, the true China today.
This post reminded me of Japan in the fashion. The Japenglish/Chinglish is always entertaining.