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Dress to Impress... Yourself!

Of course, we all have seen the “Chinglish” clothes with bad English translations, or children’s wear that has phrases they shouldn’t like “I’m so hungover”

By Chris Hawke Updated May.1

I have never been one to care much about fashion or pay top-dollar for clothing and accessories. Back home, I knew my fair share of “fashionistas” but here in China, I have seen some of the most amazing and crazy styles. When my sister was coming to visit, she messaged me and asked, “What kind of style do people wear there? What kind of clothes should I bring?” I think this is really the first time I stopped to think about it because I didn’t have an answer. I started to think about styles and what I have seen.  

Of course, we all have seen the “Chinglish” clothes with bad English translations, or children’s wear that has phrases they shouldn’t like “I’m so hungover.” A lost-in-translation experience that stands out to me is when I was the only foreigner on a business trip and the girl with me had a jean jacket with “Lonely Hearts” written on the back of it. I complimented her jacket and she asked me what the saying meant. I told her it usually means someone who wants to find love and feels lonely. She was so upset about the meaning, she flipped her jacket inside out for the remainder of the trip. Makes me want to double-check the shirts I have with other languages.  

Aside from the laughs these mistranslated items can give, this is only a small part “fashion” in China.  

Another trend that I see any and everywhere are huge thick-soled shoes. I would see a petite girl walking along in a nice sundress, look down and... WHOA! I thought at first they were some kind of joke, but then as I started seeing them more and more and then even saw the trend catch on at home with my friends, I realized I had missed (luckily maybe) a big fad.  

I discovered while visiting walking streets and Instagram-worthy sites that the Japanese fashion called Lolita based on Victorian-era clothing is all the rage. I had no idea what it was at first, I just thought to myself that there was a baby doll cosplay convention. But as I saw the lacy dresses and Mary Jane shoes over and over,I realized it was some sort of subculture fashion that has quite the following.  

Aside from these stand-out trends, I think my favorite part about China is that there is such a wide range of fun and cool fashion accessories that you can express yourself with. From hair clips and purses made to look like fried chicken to clip-in color hair extensions and customizable, well, everything, you can get as funky as you want, and no one will bat an eye.  

I think one thing that does set China’s fashion and accessories above the rest is the ease of shopping. To find amazing deals, one-of-a-kind funky jewelry, custom-tailored cosplay outfits, wigs or anything you can imagine really, it’s all just a click away on Taobao. I have a cart full of sunglasses, t-shirts, crazy handbags, and shoes waiting for a weak moment where I click “purchase all.”  

This may not be fashion, but I also think that many other countries should embrace China’s casual office attire. In the US, you need to have a “workforce wardrobe” that will cost you more than your first month’s check, and you need this before even starting the job. I find that not having to dress up or dress to impress every day causes me less stress and creates a more relaxed work environment. I highly doubt there would be a peak in my performance if I were wearing heels instead of tennis shoes.  

While China’s Beijing or Shanghai might not be hailed as a fashion capital like Milan, there are some pretty heavy-hitting designers taking center stage and Shanghai Fashion Week is nothing to turn your nose up at. Although, I think you will probably catch me wearing the fried chicken hair clip before you see me donning Chinese haute couture.  

While there is a lot of styling and profiling here, a friend and I were talking over some drinks and realized that another major difference is we don’t feel the same pressure as we did back home to conform to a certain style or brand. In a place where office wear ranges from sweatpants to gowns, and you can see baby dolls and full-on fashion photo shoots being done on the streets, you can really be and dress however you want, although I still haven’t gotten used to the capital’s hottest summer trend – the Beijing Bikini!