Fashion in modern Shanghai is interesting to observe because it has an own style. This style forms a large part of the history of costumes in China (SHME.COM, 2004). As a matter of fact, Modern Shanghai is now hailed as a center for fashion in the East, due to its propagation of the dress as a common garment for women.

Thus, Shanghai is now commonly referred to as the “Eastern Paris (SHME.COM, 2004).”It is reported that fashion in modern Shanghai is a product of the evolution of various styles and costumes actually used by its inhabitants since the early 1900s. If we trace back the history of costumes in Shanghai, it would be observed that women in Shanghai had been wearing dresses known as “Qi Pao (SHME.COM, 2004)” beginning in 1920s.

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If we look at the Qi Pao, we could see that it was a Chinese gown that is characterized by a high neck and a skirt with a slit (SHME.COM, 2004). However, present designs of the Qi Pao are different from the original designs, as it is undeniable that fashion in modern Shanghai is no longer as conservative as before. The difference in trends and styles is explained by the fact that modern Shanghai is no longer hindered by a rigid feudal society and citizens are now free to choose the designs and styles they want to wear (SHME.COM, 2004).

Indeed, the popular clothing of a certain place at a given time is shaped by the culture and history that surrounds such time. Undeniably, costumes symbolize the society and civilization of a certain population (SHME.COM, 2004).The development in Shanghai fashion manifests that it is a product of Shanghai’s development from “a little coastal town into a prosperous and open international metropolis (China, 2005).”As these slides show, Shanghai fashion has always been ahead of the pack. Also, Shanghai fashion has constantly evolved.

This is the reason why Shanghai is being looked upon with admiration all over the world. To illustrate, Shanghai had been at the forefront of the fashion scene since the 19th century. Indeed, enthusiasts all over the world closely followed the trends released by Shanghai (China, 2005).As we can see, Shanghai fashion is very colorful. This is said to be the result of the influence of the combination of Eastern and Western cultures.Whenever fashion in Shanghai is the topic, the cheongsam cannot be left unsaid. The cheongsam is a dress that was first used by ladies in Shanghai in the 1910s.

It was a tight fitting dress, which was a far cry from its predecessor, the Qi Pao, which was designed to conceal the wearer’s figure (China, 2005).We can see that the original design of the cheongsam consisted of a broad-sleeved and baggy robe, which was originally intended to be worn by Manchurian women. This style was not changed until after the lapse of 300 years. The cheongsam began to acquire worldwide popularity in 1920.

Such popularity owes itself to the influence of Occidental fashion. Thus, the cheongsam escaped the non-flattering style in favor of the tight-fitting one we know today (China, 2005).

In 1930, cheongsam continued to be popular, especially with the introduction of western style into the dress. The cheongsam held on to its appeal and charmed the interest of the oppulent, such as moviestars (China, 2005).

Anyone could see that Shanghai designers are very creative. This creativity is underscored by the fact that the cheongsam completely transformed over the years, beginning in the 1920s, which ended the 300-year old style of the cheongsam as a baggy robe that showed no figure underneath.  The cheongsam underwent an evolutionary period between the years 1920 to 1940, which allowed it to become a popular attire for the entire world.

In the modern times, Shanghai became known as an international center for fashion, beginning in the 1950s and early 1960s. That period was characterized by simplicity and frugality.However, in the 1980s, Shanghai again rose in the international fashion scene, due largely to the boost in national economy. The decade was characterized by the interest in fashion, color, and makeup. At this point, Shanghai was remarkably established as an equal to Paris, France and Milan, Italy in the fashion industry (Lu, 2006).

In 2006, Shanghai again proved its premiere position in the fashion scene by launching the Shanghai Fashion Week. This event featured world-class designs from both local and international designers (Lu, 2006).In the same event, local Chinese designers showcased their creative designs. As shown by the pictures, local designers used popular Chinese materials such as silk, cotton and linen fabrics (Lu, 2006). International designers were wowed by the creativity and fun showed by local designs and considered them equal in quality to those made by world-renowned designers.

In addition, Shanghai fashion featured in the Fashion Week was characterized by the combination of outrageous, ethnic and natural accessories and materials, which brought style and authenticity to the designs (Lu, 2006). 

Author: Willie Castillo


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