China Chic: East Meets West
February 16 - April 24, 1999

With more than 100 garments and accessories dating from the nineĀ­teenth century to present day, China Chic: East Meets West traced the extraordinary evolution of Chinese dress and its profound influence on modern western fashion. Curated by Dr. Valerie Steele, the museum’s chief curator, the exhibition was organized according to categories of traditional Chinese clothing styles juxtaposed against Chinese inspired clothing by modern designers. In other words, the qi pao, Mao suit, and dragon robe meet Christian Lacroix, Donna Karan, and Vivienne Tam.

Included in this extraordinary exhibition were selections from The Museum at FIT, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Newark Museum, the Metropolitan Opera, and private collections. The garments were presented with a selection of antique Chinese furniture and artworks, including Tang Dynasty statues depicting fashions of 1,000 years ago.

The influence of Chinese dress is evident in today’s fashions, but little is known about the development of this style. Contrary to popular belief, Chinese dress is not an ancient and unchanging tradition standing in dramatic contrast to the rapid fluctuations of western fashion. Throughout the twentieth century, Chinese clothing styles have evolved in China and these styles have greatly affected western fashion.

China Chic: East Meets West by Valerie Steele and John S. Major, Yale University Press, 1999.