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fashion tips for the (18)80s

November 21, 2010

I went back to the Shanghai Antiques Market on Dongtai Rd. in search of breast-binding garments a few days ago. I was finally prepared to spend and I went back to the place I visited the first time. It turns out it is a fairly legitimate antiques store with an Ebay store (100% feedback!) and business cards and the rest. I was able to get their price down 50 RMB by showing off my knowledge of the garment and Chinese history. My education wasn’t a total waste then?

What I ended up with was a doudu (兜肚) which is supposedly from the Qing Dynasty and Zhejiang province. Both of these make sense to me – I looked at the stitching and it is clearly all hand done. The clasps at the top and sides of the piece are sewn on and there is a little pocket for ginger or other herbs believed to be good for one’s health and body temperature. Based on the colors used, it isn’t THAT old – at the latest mid-1800s? My guess would be 1880s or early 1900s? The fabric is a rough cotton with yellow embroidery of two cranes (? Cranes symbolize long life) and two periwinkle and lilac flowers by the pockets. Around the neck there is lilac embroidery with four characters (立心正直,) light green borders, and very delicate lilac stitching. I assume that the four characters are a reference to a poem or classical literature, I will look it up soon!

Here are some photos, they aren’t the best quality but you can get the idea. It would be worn over the chest with two strings – one around the neck and one around the back, which I assume would be tightened depending on how flat the woman wanted her chest to look.

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