Accepted Paper:

Ethnic dress as fashion and tradition: a case study of hmong in Yunnan, China  


Chie Miyawaki (Anthropological Institute)

Paper short abstract:

The purpose of this presentation is to examine the current situation concerning the transformation of Hmong dress in China which is faced with a dilemma between fashionable ready-made dress supported by economic power among local Hmong people and traditional hemp dress as heritage movement.

Paper long abstract:

This presentation aims to examine the current process of the transformation of Chinese minority dress in relation to the nation, other minority groups, and outsiders. This study focuses on the Hmong, who are officially recognized as the "Miao nationality" in Yunnan, China.

The Hmong, living in Wenshan Prefecture in Yunnan Province, traditionally make their dresses by themselves using hemp as main material. The characteristics of Hmong dress include its pleated skirt made by delicate and gorgeous cross-stitching and indigo batik techniques. Such a transformation is reflected in the changes of daily lives of the Hmong.

Since the 1970s, Hmong women have made dress for their family by hand, including dyeing, weaving and embroidery work. In the past decades, however, Hmong dress has transformed dramatically in its material, methods of fabrication, form and design, and in the ways in which it is worn. Today, they make fewer number of dresses at home and buy ready-made Hmong dress at markets. Now they are aware of the eyes of outsiders through the Intangible Cultural Heritage movement and the exhibitions at the museum.

This presentation thus describes how the Hmong dress built and maintained their the channel of distribution and consumption of traditional Hmong dress used to be maintained in the past two decades, and also examines the current situation in which fashionable ready-made dress as ceremonial wardrobes are becoming popular among Hmong young women in Wenshan. At the same time, they have also begun to recognize hemp dress as rare and precious items.

Panel WIM-CHAT05
Fashionable tradition: innovation and continuity in the production and consumption of handmade textiles and crafts