The qipao was originally worn by the Manchu ruling elite in the 1600s and looked like a hybrid of a loose-fitted long sleeve dress and an elegant robe. Over time, as the Han and Manchu began to assimilate, the qipao also underwent various transformations, such as a tighter fit and shorter hem length. Today, the qipao is worn by all demographic groups (western and eastern women, old and young, and wealthy and middle-class) for all different occasions (work uniform, tourist souvenir/costume, formal event gown, casual party/clubbing dress, or even a casual outfit).
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Thus, as the subject of the qipao changes, the message of the qipao has also changed, with both negative and positive implications. In recent years, alongside the global integration of China, the qipao has adopted many western alterations to appeal to a more international audience. However, as can be observed in the two presented images, the westernization of a dress that is not inherently western provides a unique juxtaposition/superimposition of cultural discourse, but also can devalue or skew the original message that the traditionally and culturally valued qipao was designed to project.
The images show the western penetration and global influence that has affected China. First, we can see that the qipao is made of cloth and print, not delicately embroidered like classic qipao. Furthermore, the print on both of the qipaos are totally hyper-westernized/de-orientalized. The two Asian models, presumably Chinese, are wearing traditional Chinese qipaos. However, the print of the two modern qipaos is a completely inaccurate depiction of what the original qipao embodied. On the modeled qipaos, one has American flags, American alphabet letters, American newspaper print, and the other has European women wearing high heels, trench coats, sunglasses, handbags, and sun hats, all of which are not even remotely identifiable to the classic qipao or Chinese culture. Going back to the origins of the qipao, some common designs were dragons, mountains, water-weeds, and fire, which were representative of adaptability, stability, purity, and brilliance, respectively. In contrast, the designs printed on these modern day qipaos are purely surface level, visually and materialistically rich but symbolically insignificant and culturally lacking. This demonstrates that the qipao is still admired, but it is appreciated and purchased for commercial reasons with little connection to traditional and cultural Chinese values.
what is signified by American flags and European prints and for what purpose?
Interestingly, the two images, although taken from two very different shopping websites, have very similar physical style regardless of the different print, which indicates the pervasive preservation of traditional Chinese qipao style. Both dresses have the traditional Han style length, fit, side-thigh slit, knot buttons, and high collar. Although the qipaos displayed in the two images are meant to appeal to an international audience and has clearly diverged from the original qipao, it still maintains the physical design and cultural touches of the qipao. This shows that the present purchasers of the dress choose to wear the qipao purely as an aesthetic or exotic outfit, and not for cultural celebration. Through this semiotic analysis, we can conclude that the qipao has a decreased cultural and traditional message, but instead hasan increased commercial and artistic value. The Chinese culture that was originally conveyed by the authentic qipao has become diluted by the consumer culture it caters to. conclusion is strong
strengthen the connotation