Chinese fashion embodies the elegance of a
cultural tradition that has endured for thousands of years. When a civilization
has been around as long as China's has, there's been plenty of time to figure
out what looks good on a woman and is comfortable. Yang Lu's is so right when
she claims that Chinese clothes embody the essence of "elegance and symbolism."
As the United States embraces the unique ethnic identities of its people, ethnic styles are more popular than ever at the beginning of the 21st century. Chinese fashion is an especially good choice for the older woman who wants to add something new to her wardrobe, yet sophisticated, comfortable, and classic.
Here are some reasons why an Asian fashion may be right for you.
The long, lean lines of Chinese clothes silhouette feminine curves and disguise figure problems. The cheongsam - the traditional Chinese dress most often associated with that culture - can be fitted so that it is a slimming sheath. We often see the skin-tight version in Hollywood depictions. It is not necessary to wear a cheongsam dress like a sausage skin and is not even authentic. Chinese women have lived and worked in this simple, elegant dress for centuries.
The traditional Mandarin collar, used in cheongsam dresses and Chinese silk jackets, is a high neckline that can conceal what may be an older woman's least attractive visible feature. Candace Bergen, a notably beautiful older woman, has complained about her neck for decades. If you've seen an episode of Boston Legal, you may notice Bergen adopting artificially heightened collars secured by chunky jewelry to conceal what she cites as one of her worst features. The Mandarin collar goes a long way to concealing a neckline with rings or chicken skin, two common effects of aging. Unlike a scarf, which can be deadly hot in warm weather, the Mandarin collar loosely conceals without strangling. A high neckline in a garment of a solid fabric can become the background for an eye-catching necklace.
Luxurious women's silk clothing is sought-after in the current trend for green clothing and natural fibers. China was long thought to be the sole source of silk fiber unique to the cocoon of the mulberry worm. Only recently have archaeological expeditions in Europe revealed than some royalty wore silk fabric spun from the cocoons of native moth species, reported Diana Pearsall in Science News (Dec. 11, 2004). Silk drapes beautifully, as illustrated in the graceful, elongating lines of the cheongsam dress. It can provide insulation if worn close to the body, as in thermal underwear and Chinese quilted, or wadded, silk jackets. Silk also may be woven into sheer fabrics that billow in the summer breeze, allowing air to circulate and cool the skin. Silk is so soft to the touch that "smooth as silk" has become the ultimate comparison. It can be dyed into a rainbow colors. It is durable, even emerging from archaeological sites after hundreds of years. Some women's silk clothing may be gently washed by hand.
Chinese fashion often uses handmade details that are innately beautiful and may not be available in many factory-made garments for the same price. Details include embroidery, hand-painted flowers or scenes, and fogging. Fogging is a type of intricately braided button fastening. Motifs such as the Chinese dragon have inspired interest and fantasy for a thousand years.
Chinese clothes are a perfect way to express membership in our global, intercultural world. We are faced with a large of array of ethnic fashion from which to choose, including bright African dashikis, Indian saris and Indian-inspired draped gowns, Native American prints, as well as more traditional European Scottish plaids, Irish sweaters, and - of course - the influence of French and Italian uber-designers. Chinese fashions are comfortable, may include handmade details, often offer the luxury of silk fabric, and are available in styles that flatter the older woman's figure.
A Chinese garment is an investment that will bring compliments for years to come. Chinese fashions have been around for thousands of years. Their many attractions ensure that they will endure for at least our lifetimes. When was the last time you saw a Chinese woman whose clothing appeared dowdy or out-of-date?
For more information about the history and symbolism of Chinese clothes, Yang Lu presents a wonderful summary of the regional and historical traditions, complete with glossary and photos. Fashion After 50 has some suggestions for Chinese fashion for the fashionable older woman.
In summary, there's a lot of good reasons to add a Chinese fashion to your wardrobe. These styles are especially age appropriate for older women looking for something unusual with handmade details, comfortable, and figure-flattering. Many garments are beautiful examples of women's silk clothing with a timely, ethnic twist.
About the Author:
Enid Sefcovic, Ph.D