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Emma Dalton
Emma Dalton
9 months ago

Joon! What a nice surprise to see you here 🙂
You write so well – I was glued to the screen for all 8 pages!

I have a couple of questions. Firstly, in your research, do you talk about female ‘national dress’ and all this entails? The national dress in most countries for women is notoriously uncomfortable – they’re designed to constrict women’s movements and in many cases draw attention to the shape of her body. The kimono, for example, ensures women can only shuffle; even the sari, which looks quite comfy, can often have a very tight blouse and a skirt that digs in. Secondly, what are your thoughts on what is often referred to as ‘appropriation’, when white people don traditional dress from other cultures? Does a national dress ‘belong’ to a particular culture? And who gets to decide?

Can’t wait for your presentation!

Joon-Yee Kwok
Joon-Yee Kwok
9 months ago
Reply to  Emma Dalton

Hi Emma! How amazing to run into you here too. I was so excited to see that you are speaking too. Congratulations on your book and launching it too. What a huge achievement!

In answer to your questions, firstly, no I don’t address female national dress and its designs to constrict movement. Mostly as my research is more about experiences of cultural identity in Australia and how that relates to creative practice and career in the arts. I’ve realised though in looking into cheongsam, how much of a rabbit hole I could fall down! So I defer to Cheryl Sim’s excellent work, Wearing Cheongsam, on the Chinese-Canadian woman’s experience and her in-depth research on the dress’ history and design. I do think it’s interesting to note though that the form-fitting shape of the cheongsam was influenced by Western fashion trends. The original cheongsam had more of an A-line shape.

And secondly, my research does include references to cultural appropriation and how to wear dress from other cultures. The longer version of my paper includes a story about the American teenager who wore cheongsam to her prom and the blow-up on social media. For me, the issue wasn’t so much that she was wearing the dress – as I thought the occasion was fitting – it was her posing with her friends using a gesture that could be construed as racist that I thought was problematic.

Prompted by this incident, I asked my mother who she thought could wear cheongsam. And she said something like “anyone. It’s just a dress”. Fascinating!

For me, I would check the occasion to ensure it’s appropriate. For instance I wouldn’t wear sari unless I was attending an Indian event and checked that it was appropriate for me to do so. Then I would learn how to wear it, to make sure I was respecting the culture and the garment.

And thank you so much for your feedback on my writing. Really appreciate it as I come to the pointy end of my PhD 🙂