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Clothing and post-Mao reforms : subtitle the tutoring role of Chinese fashion magazines, 1980-1986 Low, Rhea V.


Beginning in 1978, the People's Republic of China embarked on new economic reforms that aimed to modernize the country. It wanted to convey that in sharp contrast to the radical, turbulent, ultra leftist days of the Cultural Revolution, the post-Mao period has been experiencing higher consumption levels, greater material progress, and modern living. An area that has been strongly influenced by this message about China's shift in policy and direction is clothing. As a case study, two state-run fashion magazines produced in China between the years 1980 to 1986 have been analyzed. This paper argues that the magazines Xiandai Fuzhuang and Shizhuang tutored people about sartorial fashion in a way that communicated the government's goal of distancing the prereform years from the post-Mao era. An underlying theme is the idea of China acting as a "pedagogical state" that provides proper guidance to its people in an effort to construct a more modern Chinese society. There are three main sections in this paper. The first part argues for a close relationship between fashion and the Chinese state. It considers the changes in consumption experienced by China before and after the reforms. It also discusses how aesthetics were ' perceived to shape an individual's moral refinement, and in turn, the improvement of society. Notably, these messages directly influenced the discourse of the state-run fashion magazines. The second section compares the contrasting attitudes toward clothing during and after the Cultural Revolution. Significant differences in perceptions of the body and gender were conveyed by the magazines' advice about dress. Through the perspectives of globalization theories, the third section explores the extent to which the magazines recommended their readers to adopt foreign clothing. Rather than demanding their readers to wear designated dress, such as Mao suits as in the previous era, they provided a range of advice: from embracing Western styles, maintaining pride in native Chinese clothing, developing a hybrid Sino-Western style.

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