Wearing the Cheongsam Cover Image

Wearing the Cheongsam

Dress and Culture in a Chinese Diaspora

eBook

Cheryl Sim


ISBN:
978-1-3501-0988-9 (online)
978-1-7883-1081-9 (hardback)
978-1-3501-0986-5 (epdf)
Published:
2019
DOI:
10.5040/9781350109889
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Abstract

Associations between the cheongsam dress and Chinese cultural identity are well known but what are the meanings of the cheongsam for members of the Chinese diaspora? In a study grounded in first-hand accounts of wearing, Cheryl Sim explores the practices and experiences of women in Canada, a major Chinese diaspora, and carries out the first in-depth study of the cheongsam from this critical point of view.

Questions explored over the course of 20 interviews, as well as during personal reflections on the author’s own experiences of wearing, include: is there a desire to re-claim or appropriate the cheongsam? Does this desire risk perpetuating stereotypes of Asian women? Does it undermine one’s identification with one’s host country? Can erased heritage(s) be accessed through dress? And how does wearing the cheongsam interact with the male gaze? Revealing feelings of repulsion and attraction, Sim combines personal stories with an authoritative use of theoretical frameworks such as feminism, post-colonialism and autoethnography.

Covering issues such as heritage, ethnic identity, authenticity, nationalism, patriarchy and assimilation, Sim demonstrates that the meanings of the cheongsam are multifarious. Readable but with strong academic underpinnings, this book is the entry point into discussions of Chinese dress and diaspora.