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Fashion, Identity, and Power in Modern Asia

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Asian American / Asian Research Institute - CUNY

25 West 43rd Street

Room 1000

New York, NY 10036

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This book project assembles innovative research on the themes of dress reform ca. 1850s-1940s in East Asia. Professor Pyun’s lecture explores Chinese, Japanese, and Korean languages of dress, body, and gender identity in the larger contexts of trade, power, modernization, and socio-political discourses. Essays in this volume illuminate, with an unprecedented scope and from a transcultural perspective, the intersections between art history, fashion history, history of consumption, political and economic history, and cultural studies.

In the process of modernization East Asian clothing underwent conspicuous changes. The Meiji government in Japan ordered a westernized revision of attires for military and government officials. Cultural leaders also responded with their own interpretations of modern identity through hybrid fashion. In late Qing and early Republican China, changing dress styles that incorporated imported tailoring and fabrics reflected the transition from the millennia-old dynastic system to modern nationhood. King Gojong of late Joseon Korea, under Japanese influence, deemed the adoption of new attires essential to modernization and decreed a series of dress reforms from the 1880s on. But the forced removal of traditional marks of status and manhood such as broad sleeves and the topknot met with vehement opposition from ministers to the ordinary people. In the twentieth century, the mass media started to play a strong role in disseminating new designs that closely followed socio-political trends.

The modernization of dress in East Asia also coincided with the diaspora of Asian immigrants to Europe and Americas in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century. The lecture will present some examples of cultural cross-dressing by Asians and non-Asians during the Gilded Ages in the US.

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Asian American / Asian Research Institute - CUNY

25 West 43rd Street

Room 1000

New York, NY 10036

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