Women’s issues were presented through fashion in the “Beauty Power - Time Corridor of Taiwan Women’s Fashion” exhibition hosted by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) and the National Science and Technology Museum of Taiwan earlier this month.
The event took place on March 8 for the 130th anniversary of Twin Oaks, an official reception venue of TECRO in the United States. To celebrate, the event showcased how women’s fashion in Taiwan has evolved for more than a century.
The main purpose of the event was to promote cultural communication and show the importance of gender equality in Taiwan, said Sherry Sung, wife of a TECRO representative.
“Traveling through time, we can see the change of women’s roles from those outfits,” Sung said. “Holding this event on International Women’s Day makes it even more meaningful.”
The exhibition highlighted both traditional and modern Taiwan women’s fashion. The first half displayed traditional clothing from 1888 to 1920, while the second half displayed modern outfits from 1930 to 2010.
Traditional outfits featured old-fashioned floral embroidery, and were modest, loosely covering the models’ entire bodies, while the modern clothing was bright, colorful and tailored to be more form-fitting and revealing.
All of the clothes and most of the accessories were designed by the fashion show’s director, Pouyun Hsiao, who is also an assistant professor in the Department of Fashion & Cosmetology Design at Tung Fang Design University in Taiwan. The items in the show took nearly half a year to be handcrafted.
“When I was designing, I tried to image how were women like in different time periods,” Hsiao said. “I want to display not only the differences of women’s clothes and makeup, but also their roles in society.”
The exhibit not only showed the evolution of the textile industry and the charm of Taiwan women’s fashion, but also conveyed stories from historical, political and economic perspectives.
During the traditional clothing portion, models’ movements were slow with genteel postures similar to women in ancient society.
Lee Talbot, the curator of The Textile Museum, said he liked the older fashions most because they were traditional, elegant and sophisticated. To him, the models seemed to walk back in time.
“It is a chance to go back in your imagination and see something quite extraordinary,” Talbot said.
During that time period, women stayed at home and were more reserved since they were constrained by traditional norms. The models demonstrated this through their movements in the first half of the show as well.
In modern society, most women have more freedom, so they showed confidence through behaviors, Hsiao said.
“It is not just a show of women’s fashion, but also a show of improved women’s status,” Hsiao said. “This is what I want to convey through models’ performances.”
TECRO invited models of different racial backgrounds to its show to represent its inclusion of other international women, TECRO Press Officer Craig Lee said.
This made the event even more special, although understanding different cultural perspectives was difficult for some of the models, Hsiao said.
“Communicating with the models is the most struggling part,” Hsiao said. “They couldn’t get the idea of behaving ‘reserved’ as traditional Taiwan women, because we have different cultural context.”
Talbot said he’s appreciated being invited to the see such “creative power.”
“It’s a magnificent opportunity for people from global community to come and understand the treasures and richness of Taiwan,” Talbot said. “[To understand] how much it contributes to global culture and how much international importance there is.”