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Postcards from the ‘Jing: Fashion Forward or F*&cked Up?

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By JB on November 12, 2011

You’ve heard about China’s impending dominance for a while now. But what’s life like on a day-to-day basis? From wacky wedding wear to shopping hell to Assless Pants for Kids, our intrepid reporter chronicles the weird and wonderful from the Chinese capital. She sends us Postcards from the ‘Jing.

My time in China is coming to a close, and soon I’ll be moving to another country. But before I go, there is something to tell you about that I’ve been saving up for a long, long time.

I’ve lived in Beijing for nearly a year and a half, and I’ve written a lot about what I’ve seen around me. But nothing – NOTHING – gets me going like the fashion madness that I see here. The key seems to be that you’ve got to sparkle and attract as much attention as possible, and the brighter your clothes and accessories are, the more successful you will be in achieving your goal.

So come along for a ride on the fashion-backward train! Our first stop is what I consider is a trend that channels the 1980s: the overuse of bows. Just yesterday I saw a girl with long hair and a giant bow on top of her head with a fake gemstone in the middle. It was the ultimate example of what I’m talking about here. Another time I spotted a girl standing in front of me on the metro with a bow clipped smack-dab in the middle of the back of her head, right between two small pigtails. Nice. But I’m not just talking about hair bows; here you’ll see bows on clothes, shoes, whatever.

In talking about Chinese city fashion, based on what I’ve seen, there must be an unspoken street rule that if you don’t look like you’ve been attacked by a Bedazzler (attention non-American readers: this was a nutty invention from the ’90s whereby you can add sequins to any item of clothing or accessory through a contraption called the Bedazzler), you’re just not cool enough to walk the streets of Beijing. You’ve got to shine, literally, and there’s no limit to the combination of sequins, bows, glitter, etc. on clothing.

I think the general mentality is that to mix and match clothing styles isn’t a problem. It’s not uncommon to see a woman wearing sweatpants with black high heels and a suit jacket. I’ve also seen men wear nice button-down shirts with track pants. Klassy.

One trend that has forced me to do a double-take is the use of nylon anklets with dress shoes.

Now, I fully understand the employment of nylons to act as a barrier between your shvitzing feet and your shoes. But I know back home we women go to great efforts to hide the fact we’re wearing shoe-protecting nylons, rather than advertise it like they do here.

A perfect example was when I went on subway ride one day and I saw the lady next to me wearing these bright red shoes with nylon anklets and Capri pants. I’m sure she didn’t think twice about how dorky that looked; in fact, I’ve seen this so often, I don’t think anyone bats an eye.

Then there’s the fashion accessory that has continued to baffle me. It makes people look so stupid, and I can’t quite figure out what the hell it’s all about. What I’m referring to, my friends, are these silly-looking fake animal ears. One day I was walking along this pretty touristy street when I could see street vendors selling these ears like the kind you see on a stuffed animal, and I guess you clip them onto your hair. As I continued to stroll down this street, I saw a LOT of people wearing them, and not always teenagers, either, if you catch my drift. I never quite understood what this is about. I guess it’s similar to people who wear these idiotic panda hats that are like a panda face on your head.

Many times it seems to me in my city travels that people really put an effort into looking good. Of course, the definition of ‘good’ is purely subjective. As one friend once said, “She put this horrible outfit on this morning, looked at herself in the mirror and said, I look good.”

There’s one woman in my office who I am pretty sure is convinced she’s fashion forward. I’ve never seen her in the same ensemble twice and I’m pretty sure her mantra is “the brighter the better.” One day she showed up wearing an all-powder blue suit straight out of the 1970s with red cowboy boots. Oh if you could’ve seen it! And the hair bows she sports – quel horreur! One day she showed up in a decent enough dress and these insane yellow stockings. I mean, I didn’t even know what to say.

Click Page 2 below for more fashion backwardness…including the must-see HOT MESS!

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