A history of Shanghai fashion

Updated: Jun 10, 2019 By Cao Chen China Daily Print

Shanghai fashion may have evolved over the centuries, but it has till this day always retained its philosophy of being delicate, refined and inclusive.

Before 1843, Shanghai culture was mainly shaped by the culture of the areas in the south of the Yangtze River, namely the regions in today's Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces which were previously known as the ancient kingdoms of Wu and Yue in Chinese history.

Shanghai-style fashion gradually developed starting in the mid-1900s, influenced by the culture that Westerners brought to the city. For example, traditional Chinese attire such as the mandarin jacket were replaced by Western-style suits and accessories as the city became one of the five ports forced open to international trade following the signing of the Treaty of Nanking by the United Kingdom and the Qing dynasty.

In 1912, the establishment of the Republic of China facilitated the integration of Western and Eastern cultures. A classic look for men at that time comprised a suit, a pinched hat, a cane and glasses with gold frames. The look for women consisted of simple turtleneck sweaters and long skirts or skorts.

As Shanghai became a prosperous, cosmopolitan city in China during the 1920s to 1940s, attitudes toward fashion also changed. Consumers became more discerning and were likely to choose apparel that best matched their age and body shapes. The representative clothing of this era were coats, jackets and cheongsams. People no longer wore traditional Zhongshan suits.

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