term garment

anonymous asked:

On the subject of appropriation, (and yes i was asking three separate questions), so if a white girl dresses buys a Cheongsam and wears it because she is comfortable that is appropriation? Thats the thing I don't understand, I get if she is dressing up as a sexy submissive chinese person for halloween and thats pretty fucked up, but isn't a westerner wearing a Cheongsam like a Chinese person wearing a ball gown? (I'm Indian for point of reference). What if a Chinese girl wears a Sari?

i would have appreciated if you had gone through our tags and faqs because we’ve gone over many of these exact same questions time and again.

what you need to understand is that we’re talking about systems of power here and not individual acts. especially within the fashion industry, the west has traditionally inhabited the position of power. french, british, italian, and (emerging in the 19th-20th centuries) american design is the ~pinnacle~ of fashion. nations like japan, india, and china have been relegated to sites of sweatshop labor and “cultural inspiration.” now, a lot of this has shifted since the 1970s-1980s, for example the rise of japanese fashion designers and asian american fashion designers (although note that these designers still show in traditional fashion capitals like paris and new york), but this is the traditional model: (primarily white) western fashion designers achieve their status through the economic exploitation of brown, black, and yellow labor.

orientalism relies on this exploitation. the driving force behind orientalism is (1) to further capitalize on a fascination with “oriental” cultures, and (2) to morally justify exploitation by casting “the orient” as backwards and uncivilized, unworthy of the beauty that we create for ourselves. further, when we combine cultural appropriation with orientalism, we’re not only objectifying and commodifying asian cultures, but actually removing asian people from the picture entirely. there is a HUGE difference between a white person traveling to china and purchasing a cheongsam from a chinese dressmaker, and a white western designer appropriating cheongsam styles in their work. there is a HUGE difference between a white western designer creating cheongsam-style dresses and a chinese american designer creating cheongsam-style dresses (like vivienne tam is known for).

further, this power relations extends to the globalization of certain styles (i.e. western dress) as the norm, and non-western styles as niche, “traditional,” or “ethnic.” note that we typically have to use these kinds of descriptors when talking about non-western dress - even the term “non-western dress” or “world dress” is an example of what stuart hall means when he writes about “marked” and “unmarked categories.” when we have unequal power divisions, such as the ones i described here, the dominant group does not have to be marked: if you say a suit, you know we’re talking about a western suit, we don’t need to mark it as western. that is because “western” is unmarked. if it was a chinese suit, you would have to mark it “chinese” to differentiate it from the unmarked suit. your use of “ball gown” here is unmarked in contrast to “cheongsam” or “sari” which are marked by virtue of using the native term for those garments, instead of english words. do you see where i’m going with this?

so to come back to your question about a white girl wearing a cheongsam because she finds it “comfortable” (which is kind of an odd example, because cheongsams are known for the specific posture you need in order to wear it, they’re not really “comfortable” dresses, but ok), like yeah it’s completely possible for this to happen. however, it begs a host of questions. why specifically a cheongsam? what about the cheongsam makes it more or less comfortable than other garment options? where did she get this cheongsam? does this girl live in a complete cultural vacuum where she has never once been exposed to ideas about chinese people? (no. nothing ever happens in a vacuum.) she is bound to have some associations with this dress, because it is marked with its chineseness. i mean you seem to think this is a pretty simple example but there’s really a lot of political history that needs to be unpacked.

same with the example of a chinese girl wearing a sari. yes, this can be an example of appropriation. it could be an example of “othering” indian people. it probably does not operate on the same level as, say, a white british woman wearing a sari, because of the explicit colonialist history between britain and india.

honestly i find these hypothetical situations useless because the real world does not work in such a reductive way.

-e