Fashion Icons for Everyone

Peyton Ramirez, A & E Editor

I have never been interested in fashion. I throw on a t-shirt and jeans practically every day and that’s really all I need. I have very simple tastes and there is a lot about fashion that I don’t really understand. However, I can respect the beauty of expression that fashion allows.

The newest Twitter controversy that has caught my attention is the argument over a prom dress. Recently, a teen posted pictures of her cheongsam style prom dress. She faced backlash as many people took offense to what they believed was “casual racism” and cultural appropriation. What they failed to see is that the 18-year-old is not the first woman to wear a style that is from a culture that is not her own.

The 2015 Met Gala was full of similar dresses to celebrate the opening of the “China: Through the Looking Glass” Costume Institute exhibit in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. From Czech supermodel Karolina Kurkova to British singer Rita Ora cheongsams were the way to go.

At the same event, Rihanna wore a Chinese inspired, robe-like gown by fashion designer Guo Pei. The singer, who is from Barbados, finished the outfit with a headpiece resembling a crown and a lot of flashy jewelry. Sarah Jessica Parker wore a Chinese headpiece full of red flames made of ribbon and tassels down to her waist.

The cheongsam has been a dress worn by many women of diverse ethnicities. Kirsten Dunst, who is of German nationality, wore a beautifully fitted red cheongsam in her debut in ¨Spider-Man.¨ Anne Hathaway wore a blue floral one in her movie, ¨One Day.” These actresses, along with many other female celebrities, have worn cheongsams, not as political statements but to simply wear a beautiful dress.

The cheongsam has had a beautiful and meaningful transformation throughout its history. The dress originated in the early 1900s when women in China were just beginning to gain rights in education. As women were entering the intellectual world, they shed the traditional robes and began wearing early versions of the cheongsam which was looser and had longer, wider sleeves.  

As the world changed, so did the dress. It came to represent the femininity and sexuality of the Chinese woman. It became tighter-fitting and was made of cheaper materials. Cheongsam now differ from each other in design. Some are short and some are long. Some have long sleeves while others do not. There are also thousands of colors and patterns that can make up the cheongsam. Because there are so many different designs for the cheongsam, women have so many choices for which design fits them best, which is the point of fashion.  

Fashion is more than one ethnicity. It is something that is celebrated in all countries, in different ways. The artistry of the cheongsam should be enjoyed by all, not just women of Chinese culture.

The cheongsam is a staple in female fashion. It is beautiful in more ways than one. Very simply, it’s beautiful because of the artistry that goes into making the dress. From the fabric to the structure, the cheongsam is feminine and stunning and no one should face ridicule for choosing to wear one.

It’s also beautiful for what it symbolizes. The cheongsam is so much bigger than its importance in Chinese culture. In actuality, it has importance to the journey of women all around the world. The dress is a statement about who women are in the world now, not simply wives and mothers but more.

It’s so wonderful that there are things like a dress that can connect women who really have nothing in common other than the shared past of their gender. This is ´girl power´ at its finest.

Now I guarantee that when that girl put on a cheongsam and went off to prom, she was not thinking about all of this. She probably only thought about how beautiful the dress is and how great it looked on her and there is nothing wrong with that. She innocently put on a dress, not because it had an intense cultural meaning to her but because it is a stunning dress.

There does not always have to be some big statement behind what you choose to wear. A woman should be able to wear this dress without it being cultural appropriation. Sometimes a beautiful dress can just be a beautiful dress.