A Lesson in Chinese Fashion
By Fedorah Philippeaux
Going abroad and visiting other countries opens up a world you may have never imagined. You get to try new and exotic foods, meet kind new people, ride in strange vehicles and even walk hundreds of miles while reveling in the beauty of another country. What if I told you those are not the only perks of traveling abroad? What if I told you it could turn you into a beautiful and unique fashionista, as it did for me? You see, for me traveling is about making a connection to people who live in a world far different from mine. It’s about engaging with people whom I would never have the opportunity to meet at home. For me, it’s a complete and total experience and I think one of the best ways to engage and connect is through fashion!
When I was younger I loved watching Bollywood movies and imagining what I would look like in a Sari. I have often oohed and aahed at the gorgeous cultural outfits found in Latin America, India, China and Japan, so when I travelled to China I knew I had to get my hands on a Qi Pao; as a matter of fact, I got three! I believe that incorporating local flavor into your daily outfits not only helps you to better assimilate into the culture, it also creates a stronger connection to the people around you. It can be as simple as wearing a hair accessory or adding a few bangles to your arms.
When I was in China, I had long Senegalese twists in as a protective style since I wasn’t sure what hair products would be available to me. While everyone admired my twists and thought they were stunning, it wasn’t until I began adding some Chinese hair clips found at my local “dollar store” that they really began to notice my hair and engage in conversation. To them, it showed that I was trying to connect to them despite the stark differences in skin color, weight, etc.
After visiting the Forbidden City and trying on one of the traditional Imperial outfits from Ancient China, I decided to buy a few traditional outfits of my own. Although I did not look like most Chinese women did in the Qi Paos, as I am much fuller in size than most, I found that the compliments never stopped. People loved it! My students responded so enthusiastically and stated that I was the teacher that tried to fit in the most. It made them feel like I appreciated their culture and it caused many adults to regard me in higher esteem than previous American travelers to China.
So next time you travel abroad, here is my challenge to you: try to incorporate a few local clothing and accessory items into your wardrobe. Be an international fashionista! It’s not that difficult and you don’t have to do much; a bracelet here and a necklace there will make the difference. Besides, you’ll be feeling like a local in no time.
Born in New York but raised on 2 different continents with 3 different cultures, Fedorah is an avid traveler. She is of Haitian descent and is fluent in all 4 of her native languages; she is currently learning her 7th language. She has a Bachelor's in International Relations and hopes to someday work for the State Department. She enjoys singing/performing, learning new instruments, reading, travelling and Politics. She spent the last year in China, teaching English at Qinhuangdao University in Hebei. She is currently working on her Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies based in both the UK and Germany.