The aim of this study is to provide an understanding of urban Chinese women’s fashion consumption practices in light of major recent socio-historical events and to demonstrate that changes in fashion are not necessarily continuous, but rather can be discontinuous in the wake of radical disturbances.
A phenomenological study was conducted that included group interviews with Chinese women belonging to three age cohorts who experienced different radical changes in recent Chinese history.
This study provides insights into how fashion develops when radical economic and social shifts result in a discontinuous rather than continuous fashion evolution. In China, it can be seen that these radical ideological shifts had discontinuous effects on notions of beauty and how identity is expressed through fashion. The changes seen in the past 60 years or so – from the advent of communism in 1949 until now – cannot be explained by theories of imitation and distinction alone. The changes are also anchored to key socio-historic events, and were not necessarily an outgrowth of the period before, or class-based practices, but rather a response to social upheavals.
This study provides a nuanced understanding of how tumultuous socio-cultural events affect how fashion is experienced in China, which allows us to contribute to the growing understanding of Chinese consumer culture, and demonstrate that the understanding of how fashion evolves needs to accommodate the upheavals in society over the past sixty years.
The authors would like to thank Dr Doug Cremer for reviewing the manuscript and providing valuable feedback, the respondents for sharing their stories and the editors for helping to sharpen the arguments.
Ucok Hughes, M., Eckhardt, G., Kaigler-Walker, K. and Gilbert, Z. (2015), "The discontinuous evolution of women’s fashion in China", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 18 No. 4, pp. 391-408. https://doi.org/10.1108/QMR-07-2014-0061Download as .RIS
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