Heeled shoes, symbol of feminine elegance
Let’s talk about stilettos and rags: a careful observation of clothing in Shanghainese streets and of ready-to-wear in the showcases can bring us to a summary of Chinese’s current fashion. For several decades high-heels have been associated with modern feminine elegance and became a social norm in terms of clothing. Torture for some, beauty asset according to others, rare are those not to count a pair of stilettos in their wardrobe.
High heels actually are a Chinese invention
The invention of high-heeled shoes is attributed to the Manchu queen Duoluo Ganzhu, who according to legend wanted to attack enemy soldiers by surprise and had the idea to create high-pitched shoes to cross the swamps without getting bogged down, the way of crane birds did. Contrary to popular belief, not all provinces in China advocated bandaging women’s feet; the fashion of the high-heeled shoes was a trend for Manchu women, although the heel was at that time in the middle of the sole and not at the bottom.
Surprisingly the high heels in China have an image of a western imported product. Whatever the past History, Western countries are so much associated with modernity in today’s Chinese society that the true nations behind the innovations are unlearned. Not so long ago, Western imported products into China were considered as a loss of national identity and a danger for the economy.
Heeled shoes are a tool for working girls in China
Chinese women are very sensitive to the Western slender morphologies. The use of high heels is common in the tertiary sector of the active life. The heels refine the leg and give a more imposing stature to a working girl. City workers hope to gain more credibility as an employee, where competition between colleagues remain tough.
Wearing high heels in China means concretely being an academic entering the workforce, being a modern and cultured woman with access to social leisure. It goes so far as to say that it is an independent woman earning her own salary and free of her movements, opposed to traditional Chinese foot-bound women whose activities were very limited.
It is therefore a very positive image of an emancipated woman wearing high heels.
What kind of high heels to find in Chinese shops?
While in Europe we prefer half-height heels compensated for more comfort in the working life, Chinese women for their part will invest on the stiletto heels with pointed tip. Bling-bling fashion is part of the game : the kick of the shoe is often covered with an imposing rhinestone loop or a large colored bow, except when the edge of the shoe is lined with lace. The varnished materials is popular, without hesitation for printed crocodile leather or panther pattern.
The plain shoes will be red – THE lucky color – but also beige, black or silver. Unlike Europe, the blue color appears very little in fashion trends ready-to-wear, replaced by red and black colors. Two other trends: sportswear extra-high wedge heels or extra-high soles following Japanese style.
Which clothes to match with shoes?
Culturally, Chinese women show their legs more easily than their bust. While the Europeans easily wear fitted tops and strapless necklines for parties, Chinese party girls will keep a flowing crew neck sweater with long sleeves, or at least will cover their shoulders. Chest is simply not an aesthetic body part in the Chinese culture.
Fuzzy clothes are fashionable, such as sweatshirts-dresses, coats below the knee or extra-large sweaters. The overalls are the general trend. Downstairs, it will be loose shorts or long skirts, less easily short skirts. Unlike Japanese women, Chinese women reject infantilizing clothes. Above all, they seek professional and personal credibility. The shorts are worn with voluntarily whiter tights than their natural skin color, while the westerners cheat by wearing tanner tights to get the opposite result.
Matching colors is a different question. The famous fashion dress code of three solid colors does not have a word to say in China. Clothes certainly have much less flowery prints than a decade ago, but they have been replaced by sportswear logos with flashy stripes, fake brand names and word sequences in English or French, often without head and tail. The geometric prints remain bright and indifferently superimposed on each other. Rhinestone shoes are particularly popular among men.
When Korean fashion invade China
This is no longer a generality in a country receiving cultural influences from all around the world.
Korean clothing is tendency in China, although trends are coming three seasons behind the scenes. From then on, soft pastel shades and neutral sets outweigh the carnival clothing. The ‘new Chinese fashion’ want to be simple and elegant.
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