Chinese Looks

9780253012470: Hardback
Release Date: 25th April 2014

9780253012562: Paperback
Release Date: 25th April 2014

35 b&w illus.

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 308

Indiana University Press

Chinese Looks

Fashion, Performance, Race

Hardback / £73.00
Paperback / £25.99

From yellow-face performance in the 19th century to Jackie Chan in the 21st, Chinese Looks examines articles of clothing and modes of adornment as a window on how American views of China have changed in the past 150 years. Sean Metzger provides a cultural history of three iconic objects in theatrical and cinematic performance: the queue, or man's hair braid; the woman's suit known as the qipao; and the Mao suit. Each object emerges at a pivotal moment in US-China relations, indexing shifts in the balance of power between the two nations. Metzger shows how aesthetics, gender, politics, economics, and race are interwoven and argues that close examination of particular forms of dress can help us think anew about gender and modernity.


Part I. The Queue
1. Charles Parsloe's Chinese Fetish
2. Screening Tails

Part II. The Qipao
3. Anna May Wong and the Qipao’s American Debut
4. Exoticus Eroticus, or the Silhouette of Suzie’s Slits during the Cold War
5. Cut from Memory: Wong Kar-Wai’s Fashionable Homage

Part III. The Mao Suit
6. An Unsightly Vision
7. Uniform Beliefs?
8. Mao Fun Suits

Epilogue: The Tuxedo


Sean Metzger is Assistant Professor of Performance Studies in the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television. He is editor (with Olivia Khoo) of Futures of Chinese Cinema: Technologies and Temporalities in Chinese Screen Cultures and (with Gina Masequesmay) of Embodying Asian/American Sexualities.

"A thoroughly researched, richly detailed study of the ways that items of clothing can both reveal and fashion cultural relationships."

SanSan Kwan
University of California, Berkeley

"Cultivating both a careful examination of cinematic technique and a broad theoretical understanding of global cultural exchange, Metzger does an especially good job of putting the cultural industries of China and North America into conversation."

The Drama Review

"Chinese Looks is a sophisticated and well-researched publication that sheds light on how our appearances are tools for expressing identity, culture, politics, and issues that cross these complex boundaries."


"Professor Metzger offers a rich and detailed study of Chinese fashion, calling it the 'Sino/American interface' that marks political and cultural investments in America's views of China and Chinese Americans."

New Books in Asian American Studies

"This is an important work that should be of interest to scholars in the fields of theatre, performance, cinema, queer studies, art history, costume design, and visual culture."

Modern Drama


A welcome addition to theatre and performance studies, film studies, Asian American studies, fashion theory, and gender and sexuality studies, Chinese Looks is poised to provide entree into future conversations about China's continued rise in geopolitics, the next chapter in the Sino/American interface.


Journal of American Drama and Theatre