Skip to content

The sucking quicksand of failure…

October 16, 2010

Dongtai Rd. Antiques Market

On Friday, I decided to go to the Dongtai Antiques Market for my first try at finding breast-binding garments from the early 20th century. Dongtai Rd. has a lot of fakes and plenty of overpriced Little Red Books, reprints of Shanghai calendars, and trinkets for tourists, including a very peculiar set of wooden bracelets decorated with Chinese erotic art. While walking down the street, I was also struck by the number of slippers for bound feet on the street. The footbinding seminar I took taught me how to guess the age and origin of these shoes. I could tell that more than a few of them were tourist trinkets and not the real thing, but there were a few that seemed quite real. I definitely want to take another look next time I am there!

However, tucked in with all of these things are a few very legitimate antiques shops. The first one I stopped in, which was almost like a little cave off of the street, was filled from floor to roof with fabric. I asked the woman if she had any little vests (xiao beixin) or dudou and she pulled out one that had some really interesting pleating detail on it. I asked how old it was and she said 1984, so I left. Too young! The next shop I stopped in had a small stack of cloth in the corner that I rifled through. Lots of embroidered change purses and headpieces but no binding garments, next! My third stop was at a store with glass case walls and lots of fabrics, lotus slippers, and turquoise and jade jewelry and headpieces. The man sitting in there was way more interested in his computer solitaire game but he called in his female associate to help me out. She dug through a large stack of fabric and pulled out a dudou, immediately mimicking (without me having to say anything) breast-binding. It was a bit crude but at least I knew that she knew what the garments were used for at one time. She claimed that the garment was from the Qing Dynasty, a claim that I believed based on the size of the stitches and the color of the garment and its embroidery. It was a triangle of rough navy blue cotton with three pockets in the front (interesting!) and some simple embroidery of spiders and flowers in the middle. At the very top, the embroidery was a little more complex and the garment had multi-colored flowers embroidered around the neck. Since there was some sea foam green and pink embroidery and the navy blue base of the garment was not faded, I would guess that if it is real it is from the 19th century or early 20th century.

But here is where this story becomes sad/a failure…when I asked the cost, I was told 200RMB. $30 doesn’t seem like “a lot” but in Shanghai, 200 RMB is a week of eating out! I told him that that was too much and his response was “Well, you don’t have to buy it.” I left, thinking that if I came back in a little bit and tried to haggle, he might budge. Well, that didn’t work and I was promptly waved out of the shop. Some time next week I am going to send a decoy in, in the hopes that I can get this garment for 100 RMB or less!

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: