For China’s Young Fashionistas the Cultural Revolution Is So Over

Two teenaged Chinese girls gettingt their picture taken in Beijing. One has dyed her hair orange.

These two girls outside Beijing’s Forbidden City wanted us to take their picture . . . Is that a real tattoo? And how did she achieve the orange hair — peroxide? Photo by BF Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

Until very recently, when I thought of modern-day China, I didn’t think of fun. I thought of the Cultural Revolution of the ’60s and ’70s, when traditional Chinese men were forced to cut off their queues, and intellectuals were banished to the countryside to till the soil and be reeducated into the proletariat.

three girls in shorts and shorts skirts on street in shanghai market. Photo by BF Newhall

Shopping in the Yu Gardens Market, Shanghai. Photo by BF Newhall

I thought of the disastrous Great Leap Forward of the 1950s, when millions of Chinese died of hunger because of Chairman Mao’s top-down agricultural policies.

I thought of gaunt, starving children and a grim, colorless place where everyone was dressed in baggy pants and Mao jackets.

But today’s youngest Chinese — the ones Jon and I saw promenading the affluent streets of Beijing and Shanghai anyway — were anything but gaunt, starving or grim. By the looks of them, the Cultural Revolution of their grandparents’ generation was very much over.

They sported tattoos and trendy sneakers. They carried shopping bags from Forever 21. They wore pink tights, huge hair bows and T-shirts with kitty cats on them. They dyed their hair orange. They flashed the peace sign. They pulled out their cameras and asked to take pictures of themselves with Jon and me.

They were a lot of fun.

Want to see more shoes? Check out Shanghai shoe chic at “Shanghai Chic: Where a Woman’s Style Starts With Her Shoes.” And follow my adventures in shopping for shoes to wear to my son’s wedding at “My Killer Shoes: Brought Down to Size by Those 4 1/2-Inch Heels.”

bright pink espadrille shoes with funny monkey faces on a girl in Shanghai. Photo by BF Newhall

Monkey shoes.

beige and black sequined mules with a rabbit face on a girl in Shanghai. Photo by BF Newhall

Bunny shoes.

pink barbie doll shoes on a girl in shanghai. Photo by BF Newhall

Barbie shoes.

peach and yellow high-top shoes in shanghai. photo by bf newhall

Brand new shoes . . .

orange and black espadrille shoes with rabbit face in shanghai. photo by bf newhall

. . . everywhere.


pink mary jane jelly shoes on a girl's feet in shanghai. photo by bf newhall

Photos by BF Newhall

A Chinese teenaged girl in tight pink pants &T-shirt taking a photo from the Great Wall. Photo by BF Newhall

Casual, but put-together.

teenagers in short skirts and T-shirts window shop in Yu Gardens Market, Shanghai. Photo by BF Newhall

The girl in photo at left was touring the Great Wall on a rainy day. The window-shopping girls above were dressed just right for a hot, muggy — smoggy —  Sunday in September at the Yu Gardens Market in Old Shanghai. Photos by BF Newhall

Three stylish young Chinese schoolgirls on their playground. Photo by BF Newhall

On the playground, three stylish schoolgirls. Photo by BF Newhall

Two stylish Chinese girls mug for the camera with a Western man in a polo shirt. Photo by BF Newhall

We took this picture of Jon and two young tourists along Shanghai’s Bund — then took another picture with their camera. Photo by BF Newhall

The Cultural Revolution’s proletariat look —  serviceable and shapeless.


  1. Frances Gabriel says:

    Nice Barbara! Actually what impressed me more than the outfits were the waistlines….don’t think I saw an obese Chinese person the whole time we were there!

    • Barbara Falconer Newhall says:

      So true. I meant to mention that in my post. I saw very few overweight people, young or old, in China. I wonder whether it’s the diet, or are people just more physically active? There were lots of people on bikes, but I saw so many sitting in cars, stuck in traffic.

  2. Love this post! when i was in china in 1981, dark clothing, blue or gray, was still the rule — but more color was showing up, especially hot pink for young women, often with a leopard print scarf or hat.

  3. Katherine Philipp says:

    The fashionistas were so cute! Love your pictures!


  1. […] “Shanghai Chic: Where a Woman’s Style Starts With Her Shoes”  and  “For China’s Young Fashionistas, the Cultural Revolution Is So Over.” Kids pee in public in China and sometimes poop. This greeted us as we crossed the bridge to the […]

  2. […] fun photos from my trusty point-and-shoot at “China’s One-Child Families,”  “For China’s Young Fashionistas, the Cultural Revolution is So Over”  and  “The Funky Charms of East Austin, Texas.” A rainless California winter had […]

  3. A Day Trip to Atotonilco — Four Enchanting Reasons to Go says:

    […] travel stories at “China’s Youngest Fashionistas.” Chicken in mole sauce at the Nirvana Restaurant. Photo by BF Newhall The Santuario. Photo by BF […]

Leave a Comment