Yiting Dong – Post 4
National dress is an ‘invented tradition’. That is traditions that appear or claim to be old, but often recent in origin or reinvented. The cloth is often for the purpose of nurturing a sense of national identity and cultural heritage. From the example of APEC2001, where the national leaders are seen wearing the tangzhuang. This piece of clothing has been chosen as the ‘national dress’ to represent China.
The division between national dress and western dress is more than a binary division. There are some contexts in which Western dress can be adopted as national dress. King Chulalongkorn of Siam (Thailand), fashioned himself in the style of European monarchs of the time, seen in painting, photos and coins. It was a response to the threat of colonisation from the West. The Thai monarchy wanted to appear as a civilised and forward country, and in fact Siam managed to avoid the forces of colonisation.
In China, virtuous leadership was associated through the image of the scholar and academic. As such, the Chinese scholarly robe was an important part of a Chinese leader’s apparel. They also wore European bowler’s hats with the gowns, signalling their modernising intentions. They also combined and modified elements of European military uniform and Japanese school uniform to create the Sun Yat-Sen suit, creating a sense of patriotism, combining a sense of democratic leadership with military prowess. Early 20th century leaders in China utilised a diverse variety of dress to signify their modernising intentions with the West, as well as satisfy the traditions of their own country.