I saw a news article recently about an Arab country’s dress code for tourists (here). It reminded me of my first trip to China in 1981. The tour company gave us a long list of 'suggestions' for appropriate apparel: Women were told to show absolutely no cleavage, ever, and no bare shoulders except for swimsuits; tops had to be loose-fitting; dresses and skirts had to be mid-calf or longer, and shorts were completely unacceptable.
Men were told that we could wear shorts if we really wanted to, but we would be laughed at. I did wear shorts and I did get laughed at. Everywhere we went I heard whispers: “Looks like he made 'em himself." (Which I had – they were cut-off jeans.)
One of the first things I noticed when we got to China was that women riding bicycles would hike their mid-calf skirts up to mid-thigh or higher. To me that seemed much more risqué than mini-skirts or shorts. Oh, well, dress codes have never made much sense to me, anyway.
We visited Qingdao on that trip, the famous resort town, and stayed at a hotel right across the road from the beach. We were told not to wear our swimsuits on the street. We had to wear our regular clothes to and from the hotel, and change to swim clothes in cabanas near the water.
The dress code was one of the first things to go when China
In the States, a woman who wears shorts with high heels
risks being labeled as, well, "that kind". Here, she’s just a smartly
dressed modern girl. Bare shoulders are still a rarity, but I doubt
that there's any kind of moralistic proscription; it's more likely
that sun dresses and tube tops just aren’t considered chic.
Weather permitting, a black bra under a fishnet top or a
sheer silk blouse is not unusual. (The girl with the brown purse
in the upper right-hand photo has on a loose-knit, see-through
top, but it’s a comparatively modest one.) Last year I even saw
one young thing wearing a completely transparent plastic miniskirt with black panties, but I think that was a bit daring, even for Liuzhou.
Men occasionally wear shorts, but long pants are still the far more popular choice. I think it has something to do with mosquitos, which don’t seem to bother young girls for some reason.
I took all the above photos on the pedestrian mall in downtown Liuzhou, some from a second-floor coffee shop and the others while sitting under a tree on the edge of a planter box. I was trying to look as inconspicuous as possible. Yeah, right, as if an FFG could ever look inconspicuous in Liuzhou, especially when he’s got a camera in his hand and is sneaking pictures of scantily clad young women. My reputation in this town may never recover.
Update, summer 2017
The Ladies of Liuzhou have discovered a solution to the fashion vs.
mosquito problem: a long skirt made of sheer silk or fishnet material
worn over shorts or a mini-skirt. Very effective!
I have also seen four of five sundresses this year, and even one tube
top. Not quite a fad, yet.
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