Utah teen Keziah Daum’s choice of the Chinese qipao as a prom dress has been getting plenty of negative attention in the United States for its perceived “cultural appropriation” (although, strangely, actual Chinese individuals don’t seem to care).
Another even more prominent individual with no Chinese heritage was once spotted wearing a similar dress — and to make things worse, she did it in China!
Oh no! Not Melania! Surely the Chinese world was beyond offended by this horrifying instance of cultural appropriation, particularly before President Xi and his wife.
Or, well, not.
“Melania Trump played the sartorial diplomacy game at a state dinner in Beijing on Thursday. The first lady attended the event at the Great Hall of the People wearing a satin floor-length gown in a traditional cheongsam silhouette,” a Yahoo Style article from November 2017 read.
“From Alessandro Michele’s fall 2016 Gucci ready-to-wear collection, the black piece features pink and green floral embroidery as well as other figures throughout the nature-inspired motif. For some extra flair, the dress has magenta mink cuffs as well as a high leg slit.”
Well, surely this must be a mistake. After all, Yahoo doesn’t represent the real Chinese people like Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post does. They must have been outraged beyond belief.
“Looking every stiletto inch the ex-model, Trump sported a black floor-length dress stitched with brightly coloured flowers and a phoenix, a symbol of an emperor’s wife in imperial China,” an SCMP article on the dress read. “The dress’s sleeves were trimmed in pale pink fur, a look that combined Chinese tradition with Trump’s preference for Italian luxury labels.”
Hmm. They don’t sound too outraged, either. I’m beginning to notice a pattern.
There could be several reasons for this, two of which spring readily to mind. The first is that the Trumps simply don’t give a qipao what the press thinks regarding currently-fashionable ideas of cultural appropriation, so they didn’t bother reporting on it. It was a lot easier to pick on an unknown teenager, who was likely a lot more vulnerable to this sort of thing, than a first lady who simply doesn’t care and is going to flout the edicts of our self-appointed cultural enforcers.
Secondly, nobody in the Chinese world — either on the mainland or in places like Taiwan, Hong Kong or Singapore — really cares about these ideas, even though they’re the ones that are supposedly being saved from the horrible blight of appropriation.
In fact, ever since Twitter user Jeremy Lam brought about social media’s two minutes of hate against the 18-year-old Daum by posting that “My culture is NOT your g****** prom dress,” individuals from that part of the world have actively been supporting Daum and counteracting the narrative of the clueless white teenager abusing their culture.
— Keziah (@daumkeziah) April 22, 2018
“Very elegant and beautiful! Really don’t understand the people who are against her, they are wrong!” a commenter on an article by Wenxue City News wrote, according to the SCMP. “I suggest the Chinese government, state television or fashion company invite her to China to display her cheongsam!”
“Culture has no borders,” a user of Weibo, the Chinese-based social media app, wrote. “There is no problem, as long as there is no malice or deliberate maligning. Chinese cultural treasures are worth spreading all over the world.”
“It’s ridiculous to criticize this as cultural appropriation,” Hong Kong-based cultural commentator Zhou Yijun told The New York Times. “From the perspective of a Chinese person, if a foreign woman wears a qipao and thinks she looks pretty, then why shouldn’t she wear it?”
“I posted photos for my friends to see. I never imagined it would go so far,” she wrote. “I am sorry if anyone was offended. That was never my intention. I am grateful I was able to wear such a beautiful dress.”
In our opinion, she didn’t even have to go that far. The only people who seem to be offended en masse are the terminally PC. While Jeremy Lam’s biological background may be Chinese, its clear that, in this case, he was acting out of his affiliation with the professionally-offended. Apologizing to those who are offended when that’s simply their default mode of being seems a bit superfluous.
After all, it was a nice dress — one that many Chinese dress exporters probably wouldn’t mind exporting more of, particularly to evil cultural appropriators to Keziah Daum. Lam, it seems, doesn’t have a whole lot of traction among those who matter.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.