Does Fashion Contribute Anything to Society?
Make np, Dress up, Warm up, Brighten'up
When 43-year-old Wang I.ongzhu stepped out of a beauty
parlour in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu Province in East China, she felt
all the people around were staring at her with admiration.
She said, "Years ago, it would be unusual for a
middleaged woman like me to make up because Chinese women who have married
and raised children usually do not care much about their appearance.
"When I came home and looked in the mirror, I
found myself younger and I felt relaxed and confident," she added.
Wang, an official of a pharmaceutical factory in
Nanjing, believes a good appearance may leave people with a better
impression in social contacts. She goes to the Nanjing Dongfang beauty
parlour centre to have face massotherapy once a week.
Founded three months ago, the centre has helped more
than 100 middie-aged and older people to improve their appearance.
Zhang Yahui, director of the centre, said,
"Everyone gets old. But we can keep our youthful appearance longer
through daily care."
Middle-aged and older people in China are now breaking
with the conventional idea and paying more attention to keeping fit and
caring about their appearance.
According to a shop assistant of the Taiping Department
Store, who looks after a counter selling clothes specially for rniddle-aged
and older people, more and more of her senior customers like to buy
fashionable and bright-coloured clothes. The dark and grey uniforms which
used to be popular among old people are now unsellable.
He Minsheng, director of a city committee looking after
affairs concerning the aged, said that when people are getting old, they
often begin to feel useless and lose interest in life. The purpose of the
committee is to help them overcome these iroubles.
He said the city has set up more than 400 recreational
and sports organizations to promote various activities for older people.
Early in the morning, old people can be found
performing disco, qigong(a system of deep breathing exercises) and other
exercises in gardens and parks.
However, not all middle-aged and older people in China
openly express their views about their wish to remain in good physical
A reporter from a local weekly aimed at senior citizens
complained that about 1, 000 people signed for a recent healthcare
exercise training course, but few of them are willing to be interviewed.
The reporter said, "Maybe these people are still afraid of being
Read the following passages. Underline the important
viewpoints while reading.
Fashions in Clothing Are Created Solely for the
Commercial Exploitation of Women
Whenever you see an old film, even one made as little
as ten years ago, you cannot help being struck by the appearance of the
women taking part. Their hair- styles and make-up look dated: their skirts
look either too long or too short: their general appearance is, in fact,
slightly ludicrous. The men taking part in the film, on the other hand,
are clearly recognizable. There is nothing about their appearance to
suggest that they belong to an entirely different age.
This illusion is created by changing fashions. Over the
years, the great majority of men have successfully resisted all attempts
to make them change their style of dress. The same cannot be said for
women. Each year a few so-ca lled "top designers" in Paris or
London lay down the law and women the whole world over rush to obey. The
decrees of the designers are unpredictable and dictatorial. This year,
they decide in their arbitrary fashion, skirts will be short and waists
will be high; zips are in and buttons are out . Next year the law is
reversed and far from taking exception, no one is even mildly surprised.
If women are mercilessly exploited year after year,
they have only themselves to blame. Because they shudder at the thought of
being seen in public in clothes that are out of fashion, they are annually
blackmailed by the designers and the big stores. Clothes which have been
worn only a few times have to be discarded because of the dictates of
fashion. When you come to think of it, only a woman is capable of standing
in front of a wardrobe packed full of clothes and announcing sadly that
she has nothing to wear.
Changing fashions are nothing more than the deliberate
creation of waste. Many women squander vast sums of money each year to
replace clothes that have hardly been worn. Women who cannot afford to
discard clothing in this way, waste hours of their time altering the
dresses they have. Hem-lines are taken up or let down; waist-lines are
taken in or let out; neck-lines are lowered or raised, and so on.
No one can claim that the fashion industry contributes
anything really important to society. Fashion designers are rarely
concerned with vital things like warmth, comfort and durability. They are
only interested in outward appearance and they take advantage of the fact
that women will put up with any amount of discomfort, providing they look
right. There can hardIy be a man who hasn,t at some time in his life
smiled at the sight of a woman shivering in a flimsy dress on a wintry
day, or delicately picking her way through deep snow in dainty shoes.
When comparing men and women in the matter of fashion,
the conclusions to be drawn are obvious. Do the constantly changing
fashions of women's clothes, one wonders, reflect basic qualities of
fickleness and instability? Men are too sensible to let themselves be
bullied by fashion clesigners. Do their unchanging styles of dress reflect
basic qualities of stability and reliability? That is for you to decide.
2. For Fashion-mad Youth Money Is No Object
Young women in Beijing are showing a new look in
fashions this year. They are wearing elegant long trouser-like skirts and
loose pantalets with a connected top, both made of colourful satin, silk
As a popular saying among young people in the capital
nowadays goes - "Fashion for women and labels for men."
Fashion had been lang neglected in Beijing. During the
"cultural revolution" (1966-1976), the city was filled with
people clad in blue, grey, black and green. Army uniforms were the norm.
Green caps, suits and coats were in vogue.
But no longer. The drab look is no more.
Wherever there are shops, there are some that sell the
latest fashions in garments a,nd shoes. Street pedlars and private
clothing store owners have been trying to collect new designs from all
over the country and to put them on display in ihe markets as soon as
Prominent Beijing garment companies such as Blue Sky,
Leimeng and Zaocun have been replaced in popularity by Smart Garments Lrd,
Wacoal Co. I.td. and De-Carty, all of which are joint ventures. Although
their clothes are much more expensive than those in ordinary shops, they
are selling very well.
In the bus:tling night market of Xidan, one of the
busiest shopping centres in Beijing, a young woman was heard commenting on
a dress marked at 319 yuan.
"It would cost three months of my salary, but it's
really beautiful," she said. "It's very difficult for people
like me who are living on fixed salaries to find som.ething satisfactory.
What we like is extremely expensive, and what we can afford we
A young woman shop assistant said she was attracted to
a beautiful skirt one day, but gave up buying it because one of her
colleagues had one just like it.
"I want to be different," she said.
Nike, Adidas and other world-famous sportswear and
shoes have become fashionable among young men who are eager to be with the
incrowd. A pair of shoes can set them back 160 yuan, more than a month's
"Young peop(e nowadays spend money like they had a
hole in their pocket," said an elderly shop assistant. "They buy
whatever they like regardless of the price.
"I'm not against dressing well, but you have to
On the fourth floor of the Wangfujing Department Store,
a young man chose a 398-yuan dress for his girlfriend.
"Since I run a beauty salon, I have no problem
affording a coat like this," the man said casually. "Nowadays
people like to start new things to distinguish themselves," a
sociologist commented. "It is a psychological breakthrough. People
try to preserve their own value and their personality."
3. Hong Devoted to Fashion Career
Fashion designer Hong Xia is a
woman. with a mission in life:she hopes to turn Guangzhou into a fashion
centre rivalling Paris, Milan, Tokyo, New York and Hong Kong.
Hong, now a designer at
Guangzhou University, staged a solo fashion show in 1986, held fashion
lectures and night-schools and published articles on fashion. She then
went on to teach at Guangzhou University in 1988 and is now writing a book
describing the Guangzhou fashion world.
Her career in fashion started when she was
enrolled in the Central Academy of Arts and Designs in Beijing in 1981.
Before that, she had been a mechanical worker for eight years after
graduating from middle school in 1973 in Guangzhou.
"Fashion design had just started its
rise in popularity at the time I was studying in Beijing," she said.
"It was fascinating because it was new."
She was attracted to the Shenzhen Special
Economic Zone two years later when she graduated and went to an area where
large-scale construction was underway and the pace of everyday life was
One year later, after gaining
experience in all aspects of clothes eduction, she received her first
designing assignment: for a batch of summer clothes.
"I don't know how to describe my
feelings for my first independent designs," she said. "t1 lot of
questions came to mind which I never thought of at school: What should I
design? What materials should I use? What colours should I choose? What
styles will be popular? All this forced me to begin a market survey."
It came as a bit of a surprise when
she saw her summer fashions welumed by customers. For the first time, she
blended the needs of the narket with her own designs.
In Shenzhen, Hong benefited from watching
Hong Kong TV and reading the latest fashion magazines from all over the
world to keep pace uith international trends. Her big chance came when she
joined the nahonal "Adult Spring-Autumn Fashion Designs
Competition" sponsored by China Fashions Magazine and Central
Television in 1985.
Hong was one of the five major winners
thanks to her unconventional women's fashion designs.
But the private fashion market in Guangzhou
is to date only a duplication and sales centre of new overseas fashions,
according to Hong Xia. "It is active in buying and selling the latest
styles form Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan but weak in designing its own
styles, ?she said.
The potential for the sale of fashion goods
throughout China has stimulated the development of the city's fashion
market. Hundreds of stores selling world-brand clothes have sprung up.
Customers to these stores, she said, are
mainly people from art circles,management personnel and young women
working in hotels and offices. Prices range from 100 to 4, 000 yuan.
People involved in the fashion business in Shanghai, Beijing, Dalian and
Qingdao are also frequent customers.
"Although at present you seldom see styles
designed by the city, s own designers, Guangzhou is gradually becoming a
Hong Kong-style fashion market with Ihe appearance of these fashion
stores," she said.
An obvious disadvantage for Guangzhou
to develop into a fashion centre is the lack of its own fashion designers,
and people in the city do not have the dress sense to appreciate fashion
Realizing this, Hong decided to teach.
"I thought I should do my best to let
more people know something about fashion designing by holding fashion
shows, lectures and nightschools," Hong said.
"That was a turning point in my
career," she said. "It paved my way towards success."
Hong Xia now has 25 students in her
class in Guangzhou University for a two-year course. She teaches them not
only the fashion theories but tells them about her own experiences as a
designer and as a privare businessperson.
Hong has already seen the achievements of her
teaching. In a national Youth Fashion Designs Competition nine of her
students were chosen as excellent winners and one of her students received
the first award.
As a fashion designer and a business
woman,'Hong Xia has sold her works to fashion businesses in the United
States, Japan, Australia and Hong Kong.
"Now I am looking forward to setting up a
private fashion company to design fashions for foreign people staying in
Guangzhou," she said."I'm working hard on it."
4.Jewellery Shining Once Again in China
Strolling through nearly every city,
you can find jewellery shops and women wearing necklaces, earrings, rings
"Things have changed
dramatically," said a middle-aged woman who had just bought a diamond
ring at a jewellery exhibition held by a small arts and crafts store in
Beijing's Chaoyang District.
"I'm the kind of woman who loves
dressing up more than anything else, " she said. "But to my
great regret, during the 'cultural revolution,' when I was a young woman,
I couldn't make myself beautiful. by wearing fashionable clothes and
beautiful jewellery. Now I am happy to have a chance to wear jewellery
again now that it is becoming popular in China."
People, both young and old, women and
men, have begun showing new interest in jewellery, especially since 1982,
when the government reopened its domesitc gold market after it was shut
down for 21 years. But different people think of jewellery in different
Fu Cong, 60, a retired man in Hohhot,
capital of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, spent 700 yuan he had
saved up for a couple of years to buy his wife a gold wedding ring for her
"I consider it a recompense," he
said. "When we were married 30 years ago, I had neither the money nor
the idea to buy her a wedding ring since in the 1950s, a gift like this
would have been considered wasteful and bourgeois."
Overjoyed at wearing the precious gift her
husband gave her, his wife said that she has taken the ring as a good
sustenance and hopes that their marriage will last forever.
"Wearing rings, earrings, necklaces and other
ornamental jewels was very popular when I was a child," she said.
"My ears were pierced a few days after I was born as were most little
girls' at that time, and I began wearing a pair of earrings when I was a
She said that she never had a
necklace or a ring because wearing jewellery was no longer done when she
grew up, and people were criticized for wearing jewels.
Wang Weilan, another woman in Hohhot, has another view toward jewellery.
A few months ago, she spent several
thousand yuan on a gold ring and a pair of earrings.
"I would rather rely on gold and
jewels than on paper currency for protection against price
increases," she said. "Although I've put some of my money in a
bank, I'm still afraid of devaluation."
For many elderly people, jewellery is no longer an
ornament to enhance beauty but a symbol of wealth or a memento. So they
pay less attention to the external design and care much more about
But most who wear jewellery thess days do so for
"Even a few years ago, I considered jewellery a
luxury. Ipreferred durable consumer goods, like colour televisions,
refrigerators and highgrade furniture. Now that I have these things I
think of jewellery as a necessity, " said He Ming, a 24-year-old
Cheap, imitation gold and ivory rings and necklaces
were very popular a couple of years ago and had a special appeal to young
women with low incomes. They liked gilt necklaces and earrings, because
they look like the real thing but were much cheaper.
But with expanding jewellery markets, the introduction
of foreign products and rising living standards, many people, especially
young women, have become more selective and are no longer satisfied with
traditional designs of rings, earrings, necklaces and bracelets. And
they're paying great attention to value as well.