women and girls tend to dress somewhat conservatively.
That is, no bikinis, no belly-button revealing clothes
and no short shorts or skirts. Although some women
do wear these types of clothing, it is often looked
down upon and is seen as an invitation for men to
harass women. I never ever had a problem with harassment
in China and I've traveled all over for extended periods
of time. If you're respectful of the people, their
customs and culture, they will in turn respect you.
Emily, New York, USA
I was in Beijing and Shanghai in June, when it's fairly
hot there. My advice is to dress to 'blend in' (sort
of). You're already going to be stared at, hassled,
and talked about by onlookers because you're a foreign
woman, to begin with. This is much worse, however,
for women who are dressed in typical western summer
clothes, such as camisoles, tank tops, shorts well
above the knee, low-neck shirts, skirts with high
slits, etc. These clothes are just not considered
appropriate by most people in China. My girlfriends
and I wore these types of clothes at the start of
our trip, and were hassled and stared at a lot until
we toned our clothes down. I recommend plain, relatively
loose pants, below-knee length skirts, and short-sleeved
tops. Nothing too bright or expensive-looking or flashy.
It'll get you more attention than you want, believe
me. You are definitely treated more respectfully by
the natives if you adapt to their culture and dress
more like them.
Katherine, Boston, USA
I just read a couple of posts on people wearing gray
or bland colors trying not to stand out in China.
I'm living here and working as a teacher right now
and I had to laugh. What you wear is unlikely to make
you stand out either more or less than you will anyway.
Unless you dress sloppily. The Chinese will appreciate
it if you dress up and wear pretty clothes (you will
rarely see women older than teenagers in jeans.).
The Chinese wear velvet, sequins and other things
Americans normally only wear for New Years parties
on a daily basis. I found out the hard way. My first
year here I lived in denim. I thought it practical
for wear and hand washing. I will never think denim
better for hand washing again. And it doesn't necessarily
wear better. This is my second year and I wear a lot
of black, pink and purple, velvet and glitter. Dressing
up has made a world of difference in how I am perceived.
You can get by with just lipstick and blush as Chinese
women rarely wear makeup other than lipstick. Scarves
are also popular, but don't bring them from home.
Buy them here. They are cheap and more gorgeous than
any I've seen in America. And lots of variety. Oh,
and skip the sneakers. A lot of women wear heels here,
too. And the Chinese also really love sparkly hair
accessories, but, again, buy in China.
Kate, an American living
China has really adopted the West as far as fashion
goes so wear what you would if you were home - except
leave the shorts and halter tops behind. Bring enough
clothes because you will have a tough time finding
anything to fit in China unless you are a size 2-4.
I am 5'8" and a size 12 so there was nothing
that fit me except an XXXL sweatshirt I bought at
the Great Wall.
I started my
trip in Shanghai which is very cosmopolitan and has
designer row stores just like Michigan Avenue in Chicago.
You can dress like you would in New York City and
fit right in in Shanghai.
I then took a
cruise on Yangtze and went in the poorer areas. Even
in the poorest areas, the young girls dress as fashionably
as they can afford - they love the designer clothes
such as Fendi, Gucci, Burberry - fake of course, but
they are cheap and fun.
Beijing is also
very progressive and modern. Wear whatever you would
at home - sans revealing clothing. In the Silk Market,
you will be able to satisfy your fake designer cravings
for anything you desire - and they carry larger sizes
(nothing over a US 10-12), even if it says XXXLLL
it still will be about a 10 -12. Don't expect to find
shoes in China if you wear over a 7.5. If you have
small feet, there is a bonanza of fake designer wear,
but remember they are not top quality. If you go to
the opera, wear a dressy, but not formal outfit. I
wore velvet pants with the wide legs and a matching
wrap top (from Ann Taylor) and it was a big hit with
the Chinese women. It packed well, didn't wrinkle
and I wore it several times. I took my leather blazer
and lightweight sweaters to wear underneath since
it was spring. I took black, red, khaki and white
which all worked together beautifully. I also took
my raincoat with a zip in lining because at that time
of year, you never know about the weather.
Francesca, Ohio, USA
I'm a JourneyWoman from California where the sun shines.
Just returned from a two week winter journey to China.
Yes - it was cold, but clothing did make a difference.
We wore thermal socks under hiking boots, thermal
underwear, and, on top - a cotton shell, polar fleece
jacket, and windbreaker - three layers make for absolute
comfort. A wool hat to cover ears as a must as is
a hood on the jacket. Re gloves - two layers worked
best for me - the thinner under-layer was a blessing
as I kept pulling off the heavy outer glove to take
Ms.Golkin, California, USA
Velvet and sequins are everyday dress in China. The
Chinese love sparkly and anything festive. No one
will tell you, but jeans are looked down on. So is
slouchy clothing. The Chinese will be thrilled if
you dress up.
Carolyn, an American in China
note: When I was in Beijing I didn't
see a soul in velvet at Starbucks.
If you are in Beijing in the summer or fall when heat
and humidity are high, pack a pretty handkerchief
in your purse. I used one to cover my mouth and nose
because the air pollution can be intense at times,
especially when traveling by taxi. When in the countryside,
wear plain styles in darker colors. Believe me, you
will attract plenty of attention just by being you.
Brandi, Bowling Green, USA
I would highly recommend skirts over pants in much
of undeveloped Asia, not because of femininity or
cultural mores, but because of cleanliness. The bathrooms
in this part of the world are pretty tough by Western
standards and the floors are usually quite wet and
nasty. Since many of these cultures use water to clean
themselves instead of toilet paper, the water tends
to get all over the floor. It is much easier to squat
and hold your skirt over your waist then it is to
squat and hold up the bottom of your pants from touching
Durfee, Boston, USA
Clothes are very cheap in China, but the women are
a lot smaller/tinier there than in Europe... I couldn't
buy hardly anything in the local/cheap stores that
fit me. And I'm just the average height and weight
for European women.
Caroline, Rotterdam, Holland
You would expect that trousers would be the ideal
choice for China, but you will find that it is much
easier and more modest to wear a skirt if you have
to use the local toilet "facilities".
Marjorie, Ottawa, Canada
I traveled in China: Don't pack anything fancy --knits
are best, pants and tops and one coat. Flat shoes
for walking on THE WALL. Clothes are cheap there and
it is best to only take what only will fit in your
carry on, and buy anything else you need, including
a collapsible suitcase.
Joanne, Mill Bay, USA
note: Wow! You really
For women in China, a simple dress or slacks and a
jacket are adequate for anything short of an official
state banquet in the Great Hall of the People.
Kevin Sinclair, Iris Wong
Po-yee, Culture Shock, China (Graphic
Arts Centre Publishing Company)
If you're in Beijing during the summer, expect lots
of heat and humidity. To keep as cool as possible,
you'll want to pack cotton short sleeve shirts, T-shirts,
shorts and skirts. But, understand that Chinese women
consider shorts very casual. So, if you plan to wear
them, make sure that they are "the walking type" that
reach at least to your knee. Ditto for the length
If you are going
sightseeing, by all means be comfortable, but going
braless, wearing tank tops or anything low cut will
be frowned upon.
When it comes
to formal wear, lightweight pantsuits, blazers and
skirts are the norm. If you're invited to dinner and
aren't sure about what is appropriate to wear, ask
your host. She will consider it a pleasure to offer
Be sure to pack
a pair of all purpose walking shoes. As for other
footwear, sandals are the easiest to pack and perfectly
acceptable in Beijing, especially since it's going
to be so warm. But, be sure to wear sandals with a
heel strap. Those without are classified shower sandals
or bedroom slippers and the Chinese will consider
Jan Wong, Toronto, Canada