Author Archives: laustin

Western Dress vs. Eastern Vase


The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition, China Through the Looking Glass sparked discussion regarding cultural appropriation, and orientalism. Many well-known and influential western fashion designers were featured in the exhibition. The curator of the exhibition, Andrew Bolton, was quoted as saying, “When you posit the East is authentic, and the West is unreal, there’s no dialogue to be had.” Although the Chinese culture is often misrepresented in the West as something very exotic and dramatized, the influence of the East inspired many Western and Eastern artists to create beautiful pieces of art for the exhibition. nice intro but any thesis statement that you’ll introduce?

This blue and white evening dress designed by Roberto Cavalli (Italian born) that was displayed in the MET’s China Through the Looking Glass exhibition, was directly influenced by the iconic blue and white porcelain vases that are associated with Chinese culture, particularly the Ming Dynasty.


Cavalli’s dress adds to the discussion of cultural representation, but does not do so insensitively.

This dress is aesthetically beautiful. The shape of the dress adds to the elegance. White and blue are the two dominant colors. The shapes appear to be floral patterns. Only the bottom two thirds of the dress are visible in the image. The viewer only sees below the waistline to the floor. From the waist to halfway down the leg, the dress is very form fitting but then opens up and is loose and flowing around the feet.

If the viewer knew nothing about this particular dress it would be easy to assume there were no cultural associations and it was just a beautiful dress. However, with background knowledge the viewer would know that this particular dress by Cavalli was a part of the China Through the Looking Glass exhibition. The Western designer found inspiration for the dress from Chinese vases from the Ming dynasty. When comparing the two objects side by side the shape of dress matches the shape of the vase, and the curvy body of a woman helps the dress to be shaped like a vase. The colors of the dress were derived from the traditional blue and white colors of the porcelain vases. It is difficult to see all of the details that are a part of the designs on the dress, but at first glance the dress designs are very similar to some of the designs on the vases. The fact that the image is cutoff just above the waistline is more of an implication that the body has become the vase.

It is hard to know how informed Cavalli is about the specific designs he used, which adds to the cultural discussion regarding . Although it is common for Westerners to take a piece of Chinese culture and misrepresent it in a negative way, I think Cavalli has simply added to the discussion between East and West in a decent manner.

very nice description of the designed work and would be stronger should you make an argument



Perception of Beauty in Today’s Media

Since the late 1980’s when Chinese versions of Western magazines became available across China many American models and celebrities have graced the covers in China. Although Vogue China is written in Chinese many of the covers that include a Western celebrity also include English headlines.  

The faces and covers that international magazines use directly influence Chinese media and the perception of beauty in China. sound statement


This particular cover of Vogue China illuminates the model, Gigi Hadid, an American model with a celebrity status. The denotations of this image are ????, A Vogue China magazine cover with a model who is not Chinese. The model has light, flawless skin from top to bottom and blonde hair. She is posing in a pastel blue crop top with white shorts. The majority of the writing on the image is in Chinese, except for the headline, “Girl on Fire”. There is a white background making Hadid the sole focus of the cover. This image can easily be glanced over without connotatively analyzing the cover. However, with some context one can understand that the Vogue image is sending a message to Chinese consumers. what is the message?

Gigi Hadid is known to have moles on her skin that fans can see on her stomach on forms of social media. In this particular image she is airbrushed of any imperfections. Along with this Hadid’s skin, particularly her face, is very light almost blending into the background. It is common in Chinese culture to buy skin whitening products. Because light skin is a beauty standard in China it makes sense that Hadid appears whiter than usual on the Vogue China cover. The clothing Hadid is wearing on the cover makes an effort to show trends that are currently in style including: pastels, crop tops, and choker necklaces. Since the headline is in English there is potentially a  Western allure. This cover of Vogue China creates a desire to be not only like Hadid but also to possess characteristics of a “Western woman”. Blonde hair, blue eyes, etc.

the pair of denotation and connotation, unfold one at a time: the western model, the title of girl on fire, Vogue in Chinese, for instance.

The intention of this magazine is not to inform Chinese consumers of trends happening within their own culture, instead this cover is informing Chinese consumers of how they can “Westernize” their style. Because Vogue has a powerful voice in the world of fashion, it is easy for the magazine to influence the perception of beauty.

Along with media influencing how consumers perceive beauty, international magazines are reflecting consumer culture. By having Gigi Hadid on the cover of this international magazine it draws in consumers because it is a face that is recognized globally. Vogue also encourages consumer culture by filling the magazine with ads for skin products, clothing designers, and other international companies that people like Gigi Hadid might be using.

good ideas which need coherent organization

Photo source:

China in Uniform

Mao Zedong was the communist leader of China and the founder of the People’s Republic of China. With Mao’s leadership came strict principles, one of these principles being, a nation in uniform. The uniforms worn identified the people in China during Mao’s regime. Workers, peasants, and soldiers (the socialist model) were clearly identifiable. In the picture shown the centralized focus is on the socialist model.


The idea of a nation in uniform is clearly illustrated in the propaganda poster. This image is an example of Mao’s ideal collective body.

The dominating color throughout the poster is red. Behind the five main people there appears to be a sea of red, which one can assume are the books that the five figures in front are holding. The man on the right is wearing a Mao suit, the man on the far left is in what looks like a military uniform the same as the woman on the far right. The two figures in the foreground of the poster are wearing clothes that could potentially belong to those with a lower socioeconomic status. Everyone in the poster appears very happy, almost as if they’re rejoicing.

If analyzed connotatively the red books are a patriotic symbol. The people in the image are holding them in the air as if they’re celebrating Mao’s unified nation. The other red accents throughout the image strengthen the viewer’s idea of the uniformity of the people in China. The five people that dominate the poster are the most symbolic aspects. These people symbolize Mao’s socialist model: workers, peasants, and soldiers. Although they are not all wearing the same uniform they symbolize a typical uniform for each class. The figure on the far left is wearing a Mao suit which one can connate is a symbol for a worker. The two figures in a green uniform are symbols for the soldiers. Lastly the two figures in the foreground of the poster symbolize the peasants.  good but further clarify the incorporation of the color red and socialist collective body/identity

A nation in uniform was a strong principle during Mao’s regime. There was also an effort for gender norms to be broken, so at times it is difficult to even tell if it is a woman or a man in certain images because everybody wears the same or similar uniforms. This concept helps support the idea of one national body in China. Throughout Mao’s regime there were many propaganda posters similar to this one that were produced, making China seam idyllic, and in this case making the viewer believe that China is one collective body. the second part, “nation in uniform in terms of gender” needs more support.

Photo citation:
“Mao, Jiang Qing, Lin Biao (1966-1972).” Long Live Chairman Mao! Long, Long Live! Accessed March 30, 2016.






Katy Perry and Modern Orientalism

The style of qipao began during the Manchu rule and was originally a Manchu style. All qipaos have high collars that are tight fitting, there are slits that go up the leg which make it more convenient for women to move easily, qipaos are typically made with silk and satin, and have knot buttons that are used as clasps. In the 1930’s qipao signified a modern woman, and since then there has been a global re-emergence of the qipao. Many fashion designers began using the qipao as inspiration. Before long the qipao style became a major trend, and celebrities like Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lopez, and Katy Perry were seen in qipao style dresses. The image of Katy Perry in qipao is an example of modern Orientalism.

if this the thesis, then clarify the meaning of “modern orientalism”


“VMA 2011: Red Carpet Fashion.” Katy Perry Photographed on the Red Carpet at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles. Accessed February 28, 2016.

At first glance Katy Perry is dressed in a bright outfit, she is wearing a tight dress with somewhat revealing cutouts, and an umbrella to match the dress. There is nothing subtle about her choices in style. The dress has some qipao like qualities with the high, tight fitting neck, and the fabric that the dress appears to be made from, however she has clearly strayed from what a traditional qipao looks like. Orientalism can be explained as how the west perceives the East, and as Katy Perry demonstrates, it is typically an exaggerated perception. The flowers in her hair have an oriental look to them that match some of the embroidery on her dress, and the color of her hair. Perry takes it one step further by adding the umbrella as an accessory. The fact that she uses the umbrella as her chosen “accessory” instead of a purse or handbag to pose with on the red carpet is a clear sign of exaggeration. Flowers are used frequently in oriental designs, and Katy Perry makes that aspect quite apparent by matching the color of her hair to the flowers that decorate it. Qipaos traditionally have slits along the side to maximize movement, but Perry exaggerates this quality with the cutouts on the front and sides of her dress.

Many American celebrities have been seen in qipao, but never as exaggerated as the look Katy Perry chose to wear. One stereotype of the West is that they view the East as exotic, and Katy Perry defends this stereotype with her chosen style of qipao. Katy Perry has Orientalized the entire look by exaggerating common oriental traits.

strengthen the connotation part with denotation as supporting materials, asking the question of how Katy and her qipao construct “modern orientalism?”

Foot binding and the Female Image

The practice of binding feet dates back to 960, it was a form of fashion and beauty that women from every economic standing practiced. The elegance emerged from the covered, unknown delicacy that bound feet encompassed. Today a Western view of foot binding can be seen as a brutal, forceful way to confine women. There are many different ideas that surround the practice, even within China; foot binding was a marker of ethnic boundaries. Among other connotations, foot binding embodies the female image and symbolizes men’s view on woman.

Foot binding is an old practice and expression of Chinese wen civility. Today around the world there is a charge to recognize women’s equality within society, which is another reason people looking back at the process see it as a sign of inequality. Today’s view on foot binding and the view hundreds of years ago remains the same in some aspects; the binding of feet is a way to label women as a delicate object that belongs to men.

shall we take this as thesis claim and the writing can start from here? Chinese men during the era of foot binding saw the tiny, covered feet as a form of sexual pleasure, a way to establish a difference between the women and the ‘barbarians’. Some women appreciated the practice of foot binding because it raised their social status, and enhanced their beauty and femininity.

When analyzing this image the viewer initially sees the woman in the background with bound feet, an ofootbindingrnate headdress, and the man in the foreground dressed in traditional Chinese apparel examining her feet. The woman’s face is shielded so it is difficult to understand her facial expression, but the man looks very inquisitive. Connotatively, one might assume only the woman’s face is covered because women were seen as more submissive than men, and during this time covering everything was the norm for women. The man seems to not only be looking at her feet, but also judging them and seems appealed that this woman went through the foot binding process. Her face is less important than the fact that her feet are bound and that she is properly expressing the female image. stay with the statement of “the boundfeet as man’s sexual desiring object.”

no need of working on another image but stay with the one you have worked on and examine in depth. 

On the surface this is an image of a Chinese family posing for a family portrait. The men are sitting one side and the women are on the other. They are all dressed in robes and the woman and girl have bound feet. With a deeper understanding of this image one can reason that the women in this photfootbindingo symbolize the female image of Chinese culture. The men are looking at the camera, they appear more relaxed while the women’s feet are bound, and they are sitting very submissively making a conscious effort to not look towards the camera.

Although only two images were analyzed where the practice of foot binding is evident, there are many more accounts of women who lived a submissive life beginning at a very young age when their feet were broken and bound.  This process enabled them to become a part of the female image of elegance and delicacy. Foot binding is a symbol of gender norms in China, and added an element to the female image that became so prevalent in China and around the world.