Polka Dots and Peter Pan Collars–The Interesting Fashions of China

I’m no fashion guru. And I’m certainly not a trendsetter. I usually come in on the end of a fashion trend, when it’s become so ubiquitous that I’m not afraid to try it out. But I can’t live in China for an entire year without commenting on how…ahem…interesting the fashion is here.

The first time I noticed a fashion disaster walking down the sidewalk, I thought it was laundry day. “Poor girl,” I thought. “All her clothes are in the wash and she had to throw on the mismatched pieces that were still clean.” Wrong. I quickly discovered that girls in China dress this way intentionally, throwing together ensembles that would have won them first place on Tacky Day during Homecoming Week in high school.

But it didn’t take me too long to transition from balking at it to trying it out for myself. There is an incredible amount of freedom in being able to throw open the wardrobe doors and just wear whatever your hands land on first, matching or not. Gone is the cry of, “I have nothing to wear!” No one here in China will judge me if I wear one purple sock and one pink sock. Or if I wear my leopard-print scarf with my blue polka dot blouse. And if they do judge me, I’ll never know because they’ll be talking about me in Chinese.

I’ve also made a few fashion faux paus of my own since being in China. I have a pair of flare jeans with a rip over one knee that I wore out on the streets with pride until I looked around and noticed…no one else is wearing flare jeans. Everyone in China wears skinny jeans only, guys and girls alike! And I also had one too many concerned friends point to my knee and say, “Oh no, your pants are torn! What happened?” and recommend a seamstress to patch them for me. I also realized that I was the only one wearing Capri pants. Well, the only girl at least. Capri pants are very popular with boys in China, much to Justin’s dismay.

So for your viewing pleasure, here is my list of the Top 10 Tacky Items That Are Socially Acceptable To Wear In China:

10. Ugly Sweaters

It’s like someone raided Bill Cosby’s entire closet and sent it all to China.

Hey, don’t get mad at me, Bill. I’m not the one who stole your sweaters!

9. Peter Pan Collars

Yup…I’m all set for my third grade school yearbook photo.

Now, maybe I have to make a bit of a concession here. After doing a bit of searching for the term “Peter Pan Collar” online to find a picture to show you, I saw that they are showing up on western fashion models and may be making a bit of a comeback in the fashion world. But personally, I don’t think I could wear one without getting the urge to go play hopscotch and give myself a cootie shot.

8. Overalls

I thought overalls were only for 90’s era angsty teens and country farmhands. Silly me!

7. Polka Dots

Just throw on a polka-dot shirt and you’re good to go!

6. Giant Hair Bows

If Minnie Mouse would wear it, then why can’t you? The bigger, the better!

Yes, I’ll be the first to admit…I’ve also tried a hair bow on for size. Don’t knock it til’ you’ve tried it! But don’t think I’ll be sporting any bows in my hair back in the U.S…

5. Two-piece Pajamas as Day-wear

By all means, guys, wear that out on the street. Wear it to work, if you want! Gives “Casual Friday” a whole new playing field…


Justin claims he saw a girl dressed in TIGER PAJAMAS walking to class the other day. I believe it! Nothing surprises me anymore.

4. Glasses without Lenses

So what if we have perfect 20/20 vision? We want to wear glasses, darnit!

3. “Old Man” Hats–of the Bowler and Barbershop Quartet Variety

Have you been raiding Grandpa’s closet again?


In China, no one gives me a second glance if I step out of the house dressed like this…

2. Wearing Leggings as Pants

Uhh….did you forget something? ::Shudder::



I saved the best for last….


Are you ready for it?…..


Because I’m not sure….


You can’t…


::Cue Music:: You can’t touch this!

1. Parachute Pants!!

At least she’s wearing them in black. I usually see striped and polka-dot parachute pants. ALL. THE. TIME.


M.C. would be proud! Maybe he should move to China! Or just have his entire wardrobe shipped here. Hey, wait a minute…

I’m not sure what I’ll do when I get back into America and I’m surrounded with really fashionable people again. It will be a huge culture shock! Do you think I could pull off wearing my parachute pants back in the States? 😉


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