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Zhongshan suits make comeback

By Gan Tian and Pu Zhendong | China Daily | Updated: 2014-03-24 08:13

<EM>Zhongshan</EM> suits make comeback
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In the fashion world, the traditional qipao dress portrays a Chinese woman's beauty, and Zhongshan suits represent a man's status.

"Foreigners will interpret the Zhongshan suit as a political symbol because it has typical Chinese connotations," said associate professor He Yang at the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology.

"It came out during a period when Western culture entered China in 1920. The Mao suit was a fusion of fashion and culture. It had an outline of a Western suit, but it had Chinese elements," said Liu Yuanfeng, dean of BIFT.

The blue and gray suit was the only choice for Chinese men. It dominated local menswear from 1920 to 1980. That was why many people in the Western world thought China was a "gray society", because nearly all the men wore gray Zhongshan suits.

Chairman Mao Zedong popularized it, so the garment became known in the West as the "Mao suit".

After the reform and opening-up in 1978, Chinese people had more choices in clothing, and Western suits became popular. With foreign fashion brands coming into the Chinese market, fewer and fewer local people were interested in the Mao suit and its connotations.

Even so, there are some older people who still own one or two Mao suits. Chinese leaders, including Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin, continued to wear them on important occasions, such as the nation's anniversary celebrations.

BIFT's Liu has seen a revival of the Mao suit over the past few years. He said there are many young designers and local fashion companies that want to popularize it again.

When then president Hu Jintao inspected the country's defense forces in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in 2009, he was wearing a gray Mao suit in Tian'anmen Square.

The suit he wore has all the characteristic elements of a traditional Mao suit, but was designed in a Western style. It was slim cut in a three-dimensional way - a modern technique in fashion.

"It was a redesigned one. Modern Mao suits will become very popular during business occasions, as it looks formal and represents China," said Xia Hua, chairwoman of Eve Enterprise Group, which was in charge of making Chinese leaders' clothes for the ceremony.

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