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China Sprout


China -- She Has a Cyber Packing Party


Chinese 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 in China

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 photos.
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
Ed. 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 the floor.
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
Ed. note: Wow! You really travel light!

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 of skirts.

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 advice.

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 them rude.
Jan Wong, Toronto, Canada

Rough Guide says...

In Beijing, skimpy clothing is fine (indeed fashionable), but looking scruffy will only induce disrespect; the slacker look is not big in China. All foreigners are -- correctly -- assumed to be comparatively rich so why they would want to dress like peasants is quite beyond the Chinese.
(Source: The Mini Rough Guide to Beijing, Simon Lewis)

Always pack an umbrella...

Yes, there can be lots of rain when you're in China but that's not why I'm suggesting you pack an umbrella. My reason is so much better. If you're going to the outskirts of any Chinese cities, you absolutely must bring along a collapsible umbrella. You see, not all toilet doors close properly -- some don't even close at all. So open that umbrella and shield your body -- it can save you a lot of embarrassment.
Julie, Singapore






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