As we approach the season of “Auld Lang Syne,” the Temper Fact Checker presents the 5W flashcards of the most titillating and savory terms sauntering through the China Fashion scene in 2020. 5W, you ask? “What, Who, When, Where, Why,” we say. Come hither, mengmei style. Check!
Mengmei style (猛妹风 in Chinese) or cross-gender style. Stories of cross-dressing have existed in nearly every culture (well, hello there, Beijing opera!) since the beginning of time, but a woman named Gabrielle Chanel changed the game in the 1910s by giving women the gift of pants. For many, this is considered the birth of androgynous fashion.
Coco (for those of you who didn’t figure it out at “Chanel”) in 1914 revolutionized the suit for the female stomp, symbolizing women’s emancipation in both society and the corporate world. The puff of a shoulder pad, the drag of a cigarette pant, and the squeak of a good ole loafer. Slay.
“Gender,” to some, is the reflection of an age-old social construction, one many times reinforced through clothing. So some figure… What better way to fight the system than redefining it with its own weapons?
Behold, with new aspirations come new inspirations. One of the biggest influencing factors behind the mengmei craze was China’s scorching TV reality show of the summer, “Sisters Who Make Waves,” and its contestant Wan Qian (万茜) , aka the “face” of mengmei style because of her signature use of oversized men’s suits. What’s more, Chinese men, too, seem to be quite taken with the female take on their wardrobe.
Chinese sports commentary platform Hupu in August 2020 conducted a survey entitled What Type of Girl Are You Most Likely To Date? The Wan Qian type of girl reply shot straight to the top of the charts with 44.9 percent of the votes. Male netizens have also shown a preference for mengmei style’s chic and unconventional aesthetic, according to Zhihu.com.
The style is boldly walking the walk for a society of women on the prowl for a more powerful femininity.
Western women at this point have been putting on wardrobe staples related to “masculinity” and “strength” for decades (from Marlene Dietrich to the oversized shoulder silhouette of the 1980s — think “Working Girl”). Chinese women, however, are new to adopting these styles.
China’s Gen Zers (born between 1995 and 2009) have shown an interest in fashion as a medium for female empowerment since the early 2010s, and mengmei style fits that passion. Like a glove. Many a New Youth discussion across China’s micro-blogging platform Sina Weibo in 2020 focused on the controversy of blurring masculinity and femininity within China Fashion.
While some refuse to get behind the trend, others support it as a sign of gender equality.
According to the 2020 Taobao (China’s largest e-commerce site) Q3 report, Wan Qian style suits and shorts saw a 6,802-percent rise in sales. From June to July, almost half of all female shoppers on the platform searched for mengmei styles, as 41 percent of female searches on the platform were, in fact, for men’s clothing.
The same Taobao report also found that:
- Women’s searches for oversized blazers were up 317 percent
- Men’s searches for “lace” were up 119 percent
- Men’s searches for “sheer” were up 107 percent
Righteo… Well, speaking of “men,” “lace and” “sheer,” you can find more on the topic of “Androchine” right here. Back to basics.
Mainstream Chinese society is starting to show tolerance for forward-thinking self-expression, “free to be you and me,” thanks to an increasing visibility through digital culture. Therefore, mengmei style is an interesting trend for brands to watch.
Though it might be tempting to carry over Western Katharine Hepburn-styled ideologies, brands must realize that China is still in its early stages of this social discussion. Fluidity in fashion offers an alternate way of being, crossing and merging the masculine and feminine.
Dress your best. The best of both worlds, that is.
“I dress for the image. Not for myself, not for the public, not for fashion,
not for men.”