Body, Femininity & Fashion


A woman’s dress not only reveals the prevailing fashion, but also communicates the individual’s role and identity with respect to cultural orientation and social position.

Style and material reflect status and class, and the many cultural symbols applied to decoration convey meanings. For example, motifs of flowers, butterflies, children, and auspicious symbols of fertility came to be associated with femininity.

The body is not only garbed in outerwear that communicates messages but is also bound by the social criteria of beauty. For instance, the lotus feet that restricted movement were a status symbol and a mark of feminine beauty.

Art loans: Teresa Coleman Fine Arts Ltd

clothing styles

From the Qing robe with a loose silhouette to the modern tight-fitting cheongsam, the change of clothing styles was reflective of societal change. Discourses about the biological body, ‘being modern’, ‘being feminine’, and ‘being Chinese’ would often be reflected in an individual’s clothing and appearance.