--- SEARCH ---
Learning Chinese
Learn to Cook Chinese Dishes
Exchange Rates
Hotel Service

Hot Links
China Development Gateway
Chinese Embassies

Eternal Class
Shanghai women became the national trend setter decades ago, and her reputation has never faded.

She is the first Chinese to be acquainted with fashion names like CD, Chanel, Lancome, Yves St. Laurent and Versace and as time goes on, Gucci, Prada and many more have been added to the list.

That doesn't mean women of the town tend to spend extravagantly on outfits. On the contrary, Yuan Wudi, a senior fashion editor in town wrote in an article that Shanghai women is the "most conservative, most thrifty" in China.

The balance between these conflicting sayings lies in the city's emphasis on cost-efficiency, - Shanghai people's reputation for shrewdness.

They make up their mind to fully realize the value of every penny they spend. Sales and discounts are good, and the quality of goods cannot be compromised.

Years ago Shanghai's only high-end department store was Maison Mode, but the top-brand goods are also available in a lane only steps away.

The celebrated - or notorious - Huating Lu used to be packed with locals as well as expatriates. Even today, in a revised version of Huating Lu, the Xiangyang market, people frequently approaches strollers and ask mysteriously: "Want bags or watches?" Then they may lead the interested people to fake Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Gucci bags, very sophisticated copies of the latest releases from these name brands.

Shanghai women have a rich knowledge of these brands -their history, styles, and latest creations - but they know better than to spend two months' salary on a bag.

"I have a friend who always tries newly released perfumes in department stores but never makes any purchase," said a migrant woman. "She would go to some small shops and buy the perfume at a much lower price."

One well-known talent of Shanghai women is that of dressing themselves beautifully even at a very low cost. The less-well-off also try their best to dress decently as the city culture tends to judge people by the way they look.

Classy instinct

In the 1970s when Chinese people had low living standards, Shanghai people's pursuit for beauty and a good life made a deep impression nationwide.

At that time, young people from urban areas were sent to the countryside to receive "re-education" from peasants. Despite doing hard labour and the lack of hygiene, young women from Shanghai managed to paint their eyebrows with burned matches and ironed their shirts with aluminum cups full of hot water. "They were delicate, elegant, smart and sensitive," wrote an anonymous author, "I thought when I grew up, that it would be the greatest pride for a man to marry a Shanghai woman."

An article published in the Shanghai Times, a weekly lifestyle newspaper, recorded a small incident. A visitor to Shanghai took the subway from Xujiahui to the railway station. He later called his friend in Shanghai to say he had seen more beauties on the trip than in the whole of his previous life.

But Shanghai people were not exempt from the hard living environment of the time. Shanghai used to be notorious for its limited housing conditions. Three generations of a family used to crowd into a 20-square-metre apartment. The same problem was faced in many big cities throughout China, but Shanghai people - especially the highly capable Shanghai housewives and daughters, handled it with great delicacy. Rooms were kept very tidy, trunks placed underneath the bed to save space, and hand-knitted cloth covered the shabby tea table.

When social development brought the opportunity, Shanghai women launched their campaign for a better lifestyle in all directions.

Shanghai people have been known among China's big cities for their craze for interior decoration. Shanghai homes, in general, are more tidily arranged than those in most other cities, such as Beijing and Tianjin, thanks to the hardworking Shanghai women.

Hard work doesn't mean treating themselves with rigour. Actually, Shanghai women are more than willing to spend on personal care, from tonics and nourishing products to various beauty treatments, as long as the service or product is proved to be worth the price.

Alien touch

Shanghai as China's first metropolis, nurtured a unique hybrid culture, combining Chinese with Westernized aestheticism. For decades, a complimentary expression for women in Shanghai as well as many parts of China, was "yangqi" (Yang, translated literally, into "foreign").

The highest aesthetic pursuit for Shanghai women is to be classy, fashionable without overstatement. The use of accessories is highly emphasized. To put on a high-priced suit with shoes and bags of the same colour was an approach highly despised by Shanghai women. Most of the fun in dressing comes from mix-and-match.

A Shanghai girl would take great pride in achieving a great effect by wearing a Western jacket with a Qipao, or sneakers with a long skirt.

Former classical fashion queens such as Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy had a faithful following in the city. Shanghai women today know, and stick to the belief that, true beauty is ever-lasting.

(Shanghai Star June 2, 2003)

Print This Page
Email This Page
About Us SiteMap Feedback
Copyright © China Internet Information Center. All Rights Reserved
E-mail: webmaster@china.org.cn Tel: 86-10-68326688