White people need to stop wearing the Chinese Qipao print
It has a long history, and you’re not part of it
by Grace Cheng
If you've gone shopping recently, you’ve probably seen a print that looks a little something like this:
What you probably don't know is this print comes from the Chinese “qipao” dress and is considered to be traditional wedding attire. You can only imagine how weird it would be to see Chinese people stomping around in flowy, white wedding gowns at the club.
The print, which rose to popularity in Shanghai in the 1920s, symbolized female liberation and the rise of the modern woman at a time when male oppression was rampant (still is).
Eventually, women began designing threads as a form of creative retaliation and the dress became a symbol of female empowerment. But in an inevitable turn of events, a group of government officials (all dudes) decided to ban the dress for being too "showy" — a classic case of men inserting themselves into situations where nobody asked for their opinion.
Chinese women continued to wear it anyway, to say, “You can’t tell me what to do with my body,” and soon after, the dress became so popular it was turned into the traditional wedding gown of the country and is still worn by many brides today.
So the issue with brands like Pretty Little Thing, Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters reinterpreting the qipao is not only that their version ignores all the history behind it, but also that it's is a complete sexualization of the design which is both offensive and ignorant.
can white chicks stop wearing qipao 😷
— rachel ✧ ·˚✦ (@asiangrI) August 3, 2017
If you don’t understand what you’re wearing, don't wear it. And that goes for more than just the Chinese qipao dress. Apply this rule to nearly any POC garment or accessory, and it’s a reliable way to avoid cultural appropriation in the future.
As much of a "look" as you think this it is (and it is), my culture is not, and never will be, your "aesthetic." And if you’re a white person who’s feeling attacked right now, it's probably because you're doing something wrong.