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Cheongsam in Red-carpet

Today’s fashion trip exploration on Red Carpet will begin with Galliano as a storyteller who triggered a sense of ‘Bricolage’ between Fashion and Culture.

John Galliano and the chartreuse Dior dress on Nichol Kidman in 1997, the one which ‘changed the trajectory of Red-Carpet fashion at the moment.’

Firstly, I am excited about the fact that cultural characteristic appears on the Red-Carpet, means the fashion smashed culture boundaries between us, it brings us together for aesthetics appreciation. It is very delightful to see other country share our fashion signature.

However, when I about to write this down, a search term shows on Google Engine, ‘cultural appropriation’. Cultural appropriation has a thin line comparing to cultural appreciation, which depends on the credit to designers or sources, and no undermining of its integrity such as ignoring the religious values behind it.

Since the chartreuse dress in 1997 to the Dior runway in 2003 and China: though the looking glass at the Met Gala in 2015. They all used Chinese item explicitly or implicitly. However, when searching the key words on the media engine, most of them were the praise of actress Nicole Kidman; appreciation of talent of designers John Galliano who motivated by personal aesthetics rather than politics, one of the astounding artworks of him is the chartreuse Qipao-inspired dress Kidman wore on The 69h Annual Academy Awards(1997)or the brilliant art performance from the host.

Even though people will be surprised by the newness cultural inspiration, but there are little report and culture background provided.

In this case, this article is not anchored on the cultural appropriation or the difference of appreciation. On the contrary, it will provide the background information for these great fashion works of art, and fill the blank that cultural background is unintentionally missing.

As there was little discussion about the term Cheongsam in western media title, the punchline about the dress is focused on Nichol Kidman, a stunning actress who appalled men.

Starting from the neckline of the dress, it is obvious that it wasn’t traditional Chinoiserie. Instead of high neck, collar closed cheongsam design, this dress with extra-western design which alter to a sheath dress neckline.

In addition, moving to the side part of the sleeves, the absence of the short-sleeved cuffs turns into a chemise frock shape. Both of these characteristics present a western and modern aesthetics, rather than oriental and retro styles. However, the shape of the long dress slits up from the sides, and length towards the ankle, is the traditional shape of Shanghai style cheongsam.

Moreover, if we zoom up to the front chest, a piece of embroidery appears as Peony and auspicious clouds, which is a time-honoured pattern on the cheongsam since the very beginning of 1920s(The Republic of China).The peony symbolises wealth, good fortune and prosperity, as well as auspicious clouds.

Overall, this dress preserves the basic components of Chinoiserie-Qipao. It is very interesting that, in the mid-phase of the Qipao trend, the 1950s Hongkong style cheongsam saw a widespread fusion and adaptation of Western aesthetics, with the short Susie Wong-style cheongsam (above and below the knee) being favoured.

However, the dress worn by Nicole Kidman in 1997 was ankle-length and barely exposed beyond the arms, it is rather an imaginative sexuality which far away from the visual sensuality of the Western aesthetic tradition, astonishing the audience on the red carpet with its Oriental aesthetic features.

The Red-carpet, in terms of its informative function, origins and its necessity in today’s public activities, shows its role as a fashion icon. Similar to the publicity of the Qipao between East and West, western interest in Chinese traditional costumes began in the 1950s, when tabloids and magazines were popular as commercial advertisements.

The Red-carpet also plays an essential role as a fashion medium today, whether it is the Oscar or the Met Gala, each Red-carpet show provides a great spectacle for magazines and fashion enthusiasts (Vogue etc.).

For cheongsam, the red carpet is just like the original tabloid, which shows the western audience the multiculturalism on the fashion stage. At the same time, the Red-carpet, because the events it represents are very ritualised, serves as a newsletter for fashion designers, giving it the authoritative nature of its information.

It is arguably one of the striking and irreplaceable offline communication methods of our time.


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