Here’s my take on the icon…
More people these days know of Marilyn Monroe than they do of Anna May Wong. But don’t fret, Posh Posh is here to put the spotlight back on the style goddess and cinematic superstar. During the Roaring 20s, Ms. Wong was the most sought after actress of Asian descent in American and European cinema. Wong acted in everything, from rousing melodramas to wild comedies, from silent film noirs to technicolor scripted classics. Though it took years for Ms.Wong to be offered a lead role, her spark, pizazz, and style ignited even in the background. She was a muse to many designers, artists, and directors and worked alongside Hollywood’s biggest names. To the western world she was their “China Doll” though sometimes depicted as a “Dragon Lady”. And though the Eastern world chastised her for her overt sexiness, the ethos of China was Anna May Wong’s greatest style inspiration.
At the beginning of her acting career her style was that of a typical 1920s flapper: Robe de Style chemise dresses, dark bobbed haircut accented with crystal and pearl headbands, 2 to 3 inched pumps, brightly rouged cheeks, and wine colored pouty lips. Wong wore the sartorially elegant designs of couturier, Jeanne Lanvin and Vogue costume designers. It wasn’t until she tapped into her Chinese roots and spent a year in Taishan that she started wearing traditional Chinese clothing.
In the 1937 film, Chinese Costume Party, Wong is introduced as, “China lady of fashion.” She wears a sapphire Mandarin gown and says, “I’ve just returned to Hollywood, after a most marvelous year in China. My first visit to the ancestral country. All the Chinese ladies looked so smart and vivid in their beautiful modern dresses of China. And being feminine, it made a deep impression on me. Not to mention my pocketbook. I could not resist to go completely Chinese in my wardrobe.” Thereafter, Wong paired silk qipao (chee-pow) dresses with fabulous furs and chic shawls and went everywhere with a calligraphed bamboo fan.
Anna May Wong’s style was so groundbreaking at the time that in 1934, the Mayfair Mannequin Society of New York voted her “world’s best dressed woman.” Her exotic fashion was fêted by high society in London, Paris, New York, Hollywood, and all over the world. Her combination of traditional Chinese and western clothing was a style no one had ever seen before. Ana May Wong will go down in history for not only being the first superstar of asian heritage but also for integrating vintage attire and culture with modern fashion. With trends from the early 20th century coming back to fashion today, look nowhere else but at Ana May Wong for inspiration.
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