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The Vicissitudes of Shanghai Style Costume


Costumes are an important symbol of social civilization. Besides satisfying the living needs of people, costumes also represent the culture of particular periods and areas. In the modern times, due to various factors, the Shanghai fashion has formed its own unique style, occupying an important position in the development history of Chinese costumes.

 Shanghai style: East meets West

In a mere one hundred years, starting from the opening of its port, Shanghai developed from a little coastal town into a prosperous and open international metropolis by absorbing both Eastern and Western cultures, which later shaped the unique Shanghai style culture with the city's costumes as one of its main colorful features.

The Shanghai-style costume culture began to take shape in the mid 19the century, when Shanghai opened its port to the world. Shanghai soon overtook Guangzhou of South China's Guangdong Province to become the biggest foreign commercial center in China in 1860, which resulted in the swarming-in of not only foreign capital but also western cultures and fashion.

The stylishness of costumes became the essence of Shanghai fashion, and as Shanghai turned into a place where the East met the West, so did its fashion. The merchants, students, and compradors (Chinese business agents of foreign companies), the first group to be influenced by Western cultures, were the pioneers and promoters of Shanghai's new fashions.

"Everyone imitates the Shanghainese, but never successfully; once they successfully imitates one style, Shanghai fashion has already progressed to another level." This idiom prevailed in the 1930's and 1940's, highlighting Shanghai's significant position in the fashion world.

 Paris of the East

When a costume culture enters in an unprecedented booming and active era, one of the most noticeable symbols is the appearance of fashionable dresses. Besides being influenced by economic and political factors, Shanghai style costume also has an intimate relation with the prevailing custom, habit, and cultural life of modern Shanghai. Enjoying the reputation of "Paris of the East," Shanghai became, and still is, the popular and propagating center of fashions.

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