March 9, 2009 / 5:08 AM / 10 years ago

Fashion takes the stage at China's parliament meeting

BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - For some delegates, China’s annual meeting of parliament is often as much about making a fashion statement as it is debating affairs of state.

The most colorful of the group are the ethnic minorities, who regularly get surrounded by reporters as keen to photograph them as to have pictures taken with them.

There are also actors, writers and entertainers, many of them finely turned out in the latest trends, bureaucrats, some in suits whose cuts and colors defy description, and other fashion faux pas that give the event a sort of carnival-like air.

All of China’s 55 official minority groups are represented at the meeting of the largely rubber-stamp body, from Mongolians and Koreans to the Muslim Uighurs and shamanistic Oroqen, and almost all come dressed in traditional clothing.

That can take the shape of resplendent silk blouses, jingling silver headdresses, voluptuous fur hats or elegantly intricate embroidery — not necessarily everyday wear for all, though.

“This is traditional Manchu clothing. I designed this outfit, though I only wear it for big meetings,” said Na Hui, a Manchu from frigid Heilongjiang province, dressed in a bright red, figure-hugging silk dress patterned with sparkly green sequins.

But Liu Qiaoying, a Bouyei from southwestern Guizhou, said she was wearing her everyday outfit to parliament, whose session this year closes on Friday.

“This is normal for me,” said Liu, a lavender-hued headdress tucked neatly into her hair, and wearing a similarly colored top tied over a simple cream blouse.

Xu Xiangdong, a Va who lives along the Myanmar border in Yunnan province, likewise insisted he really was not wearing anything out of the ordinary, even with a few shells newly sown into his magenta cloth jacket and padded headdress.

“I’m happy if people want to take my picture,” Xu said. “I just haven’t had as many pictures taken of me this year as last.”

Of course, there are also fashion misunderstandings — permed mullets, weirdly dyed hair, sloppily fitted wigs, strange tinted sunglasses and ill-fitting suits.

One ethnic minority delegate had cut off the rim to an orange plastic hardhat and stuck a thin line of black fur in its place, and under an otherwise lovely top wore a navy blue tracksuit.

But it’s not only the minorities whose threads stand out.

Members of the art and literature group of the mainly ceremonial advisory body to parliament, consisting of singers, writers, painters, movie directors and other entertainers, are probably the snappiest dressers.

Award-winning Chinese actress Ni Ping turned heads by arriving in an effortlessly understated yet fashionable outfit of baggy jeans, black patent leather shoes, scarf and jacket.

“Don’t you think it’s a little manly?” she told Reuters upon being complimented on her get-up, before slipping off to chat on her mobile phone.

Editing by Miral Fahmy

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