80s Fashion: Outside Influences and Individuality Signal the Changing Political Scape

First Glance: In this photo taken in 1980 we can see the distinct fashion trends that had taken over the industry in China. The title of the photo, by Li Xiaobin, is Young People in Fashion. From the title, even someone divorced from the fashion trends of the 80’s can tell that these young adults are dressed stylishly. Even today these outfits would be considered to be fashionable, if not a bit outdated.

Outfits: The two women and man in the photo are all wearing several layers of clothing that make an overall appealing outfit. The man is wearing a beautiful, and probably designer coat from an American designer, Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger. He layers underneath it a turtleneck, which was the essential 80’s men’s (and women’s) fashion choice. The color of his jacket it both neutral and bold. His hair cut is similar to many American men’s haircuts. The woman at his side is wearing a trendy leather trench coat. She pairs it with a gorgeous scarf that, planned or unplanned, compliments both her male counterpart’s jacket as well as her own. Her own cream turtleneck under the jacket indicates the common 80’s trend. Her hair is in a flouncy ponytail, probably very voluminous in the back. The third woman is wearing what looks like a velvet or corduroy, maroon jacket. She also is donning red gloves. Red was a huge fashion trend in 80s China and nearly all women wore red in some way in their outfits.

Subjects: These three young Chinese adults all look at least moderately well off. In the U.S the 80s saw the birth of the “yuppie” generation. Young, college-educated, professional adults who lived in cities and spent their incomes on material goods, being the culmination of several previous generations hard work to provide prosperity. These people all look very well to do, and are certainly at least middle class if not upper class.

China in the 1980s was different from the US. It was a moment of transition from Mao’s to Post-Mao society

Li Xiaobin, Documentary Photography 1976-1989. Young People in Fashion (1980).

Li Xiaobin, Documentary Photography 1976-1989. Young People in Fashion (1980).

Analysis: As compared to the pictures of fashion trends during the Red Revolution and the popularization of the Mao suit, these individuals are all dressed very differently. The uniformity of the clothes once seen in the 50’s is gone, replaced by individuality. Furthermore, while the Mao suit was a distinctly Chinese fashion item, the clothing these hip young people wear is heavily influenced by European and American designers. This combination of both the outside influences and newfound individuality is indicative of a changing political background in China. The most reminiscent trace of Chinese fashion in this photo is the red gloves. The prevalence of red in Chinese fashion is a holdover from the Red Revolution and the political ties the color had. This photo shows a changing younger population in China and its roots in a changing political climate. a stronger paragraph

without a thesis argument, the analysis could be misled by description. How about the thematic claim of fashion in transition in the 1980s? Then support the theme with denotations/connotation of the photographic image?