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Taiwanese Fashion Show Celebrates International Women's Day

By Nicole Schaller 

Women’s fashion has always been a political flashpoint, mainly due to its dual functions as both as an expression of and catalyst for changes in women’s identity. To celebrate international women’s day on March 8, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) examined the sartorial side of politics with a fashion show called “Beauty Power: Time Corridor of Taiwan Women’s Fashion.” Held at TECRO’s Twin Oaks Estate, the event highlighted changes in Taiwanese women’s fashion from 1888 to 2018.

“We are so glad for you to join us for an exciting and special event celebrating International Women’s Day,” Sherry Sung, wife of Ambassador of TECRO Stanley Kao, said to the audience at the fashion show. “Let us also invite you to travel back in time to witness how Taiwan has come along in promoting women and gender equality.”

The evening focused not only on fashion but also on women’s rights and advancements in Taiwan. In January 2016, Taiwan elected their first female president, President Tsai Ing-wen, and almost 40 percent of their legislature is female. Comparatively, U.S. Congress is only 20 percent female.

 
Two models wear early Taiwanese fashion designed by Pouyun Hsiao.(Photo: TECRO Culture Center)

“Taiwan has been a leader in gender equality and women empowerment,” said Ting Chang, a diplomat at TECRO and one of the speakers at the event. "Our government has amended the laws to alleviate women’s burden of child care, providing incentives to allow women entrepreneurs to fulfill their dreams and make their fair share of contributions to harmony and prosperity.”

The fashion show collaborated with Pouyun Hsiao, a professor at Tun Fang Design University in Taiwan, who designed and created the 20 outfits that were shown. Each outfit represented a different point in time of Taiwanese style of clothing and were presented chronologically.

Certain foreign influences could be seen in the decades' worth of Taiwanese style, which also included a blend of Chinese and Japanese characteristics. For example, in the 1910s Taiwanese women wore traditional long one-piece skirts or western skirts and paired the look with western dress shoes or Japanese clogs.

In the 1920s, women wore either Japanese styled kimonos, western dresses, or western skirts paired with broad sleeve flared tops. Fast forward to the 1980s, and women were influenced by the western styles of broad shoulders, cinched waists, and bright colors. Yet, Taiwanese women wore these styles from local Taiwanese designers with the rise of the “private brands” trend.

 
Sherry Sung, the wife of TECRO's ambassador, poses with models from Barbizon Modeling Agency who appeared in the fashion show.(Photo: TECRO Culture Center)

Major changes that were seen in Taiwanese women’s fashion reflected the changes in women’s roles throughout the years and political points in history.When the abolition of foot binding — a painful practice that limited women’s ability to walk — occurred in the early 20th century, women’s status in society subsequently changed. Women were no longer physically constrained, which allowed them to be more mobile and social.

That particular social paradigm shift took place while Taiwan was under Japanese colonial rule, which lasted from 1895 until 1945. During that time of Taiwanese women’s fashion was influenced by a equal blend of Japanese and western styles. However, during the 1940s Taiwanese women’s fashion began to be predominantly influenced by western style.

 
Ting Chang, a TECRO diplomat, models an all-recyclable dress by Pouyun Hsiao of the Tun Fang Design University.(Photo: TECRO Culture Center)

The fashion show also featured Taiwan’s latest designs, which focused on environmentally friendly and technologically advanced clothing. One of the designs displayed at the show, created by the Taiwan Textile Research Institute, won an iF World Design Award in Germany in 2011 and six international patents for its incorporation of LED lights embellished in the fabric. The other modern piece was a bright pink ball gown dress made from recyclable material.

“Now in modern days, women’s wear has morphed over time becoming more diversified and colorful,” said TECRO Press Officer Craig Lee. “With the development of technology and the increasing awareness of environmental protection, functionality is also taken into account by consumers.”

While often overlooked, clothing carries a strong message not only about the individual wearing the clothing, but also about the times around them. Time Corridor of Taiwan Women’s Fashion Show showcased the change of women’s lives and roles in relation to Taiwan’s history in a way that paid strong tribute to the recent advancements in women’s equality through fashion.


Nicole Schaller is an editorial intern at The Washington Diplomat.

 
 

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