“Dressing Taiwanese, I think I’m dressing Taiwanese. I really think so.”
That’s what runs through my head when I put on pastel-colored lacy things, especially when black leggings are involved.
These photos represent a wide range of Taiwanese fashion. So first let’s talk a bit about the average in Taiwanese fashion. Or skip to the last two paragraphs if a humorous story, not fashion, is more your thing.
Take this color palette:
And add pale pink and pale green to it:
Now that you know the common colors worn in Taiwan, let’s work on the style. For your imagined female attire, conjure up a dress or skirt with a blouse. Add any number of pleats or ruffles, possibly both. If these are lacking, you must at least plug some lace in somewhere. When I got back to the United States, I realized lace is popular here as well. But what is definitely not as popular in in the U.S. is the Taiwanese inclination to mix patterns. Stripes with floral, no problem! I’m afraid it rubbed off on Carrie and me a bit. Luckily Austin, Texas is extremely accepting of this and just about everything else.
Though I’m no fashion expert, this is the conclusion I came up with concerning clothing colors in Taiwan versus the United States: Wearing an excessive amount of bold colors (and lately neon) has been popular among hipster and young crowds for a while. In the U.S. it’s very common to see a fair amount of bold colors in anyone’s wardrobe though. In Taiwan, however, there are fewer bold-colored items and more muted and pastel colors. Carrie worked near National Taiwan University, and I’m pretty sure she saw more bright colors, whereas I was in the business district near the 101 building.
Let’s discuss the sizing. Obviously the sizes are smaller to match the people who are, on average, smaller than Westerners. Some stores such as Zara’s and Net have sizes similar to what you find in the States because those are western chains.
But the inexpensive, often stylish Korean clothing is extremely small. Korean clothes are often found at the night markets. So, let’s pretend you’re walking in the night market street breathing in wafts of stinky tofu and squeezing past a couple holding hands when you see jean shorts. You think, “I need jean shorts!” It’s humid in Taiwan, and shorts seem like they could very well save your soul. You pull a pair off the rack and begin wondering if this is a little girl’s “store” (rack of clothes on the side of the street). But it’s not. And you ask the teeny tiny employee if you can try it on. She frowns, hesitates, guesses about what you’re getting at and with a clear shake of her head, says, “No try on”. Next time, you don’t ask because it’s very obvious there are no dressing rooms at most of these shops. But you also don’t shop for shorts at the night market anymore because you’ve got a bum, and they don’t. End of story.
If you are a female planning to move to Asia, this paragraph is for you. As a size 4, I was right on the edge where night market clothes rarely fit me, and I had to be more selective about which regular stores I shopped at too. When I became a size 2, my options increased a lot. Here are some options for finding western styles and/or larger sizes in Taipei: expensive department stores (such as those at the Zhongsxiao Fuxing Mall), reasonably priced western chains such as Zara or Net, or this gem of a find- Best Buy which sells brand name American clothes for cheap… some kind of arrangement with the factories. My roommate wears a size 9 shoe and had a very limited selection; I believe she only found running shoes in her size and waited for a trip back to the States to get more shoes. I loved shopping for dresses in Taiwan. As a five-foot-tall gal, the whole strap falling off my shoulder or dress hitting at the knees problems were worries of the past while I was in Taiwan. I got a bit into the Japanese-style clothing as it is a little classier than the imported Korean clothes and a bit more colorful and unique compared to Taiwanese clothes.
It’s time for a funny, embarrassing story. Walking around Taipei one day, I wandered into a small clothing store. All but three Taiwanese stores are small, so don’t focus on that detail. As I browsed through some of the items, I was vaguely aware of two female employees staring at me about five meters away. I began to have a funny feeling about the clothes, or perhaps it was the stares from the women, so I took a better look at my surroundings. The shop wasn’t very aesthetically pleasing, and I suddenly realized I was in a dry cleaning place. The clothes I had perused were customers’ dry cleaned items awaiting pick-up. Mortified, I turned and walked out. I did it slowly so as to appear as though I’d simply decided those clothes were ugly, not that I’d became aware of my status as a moron who needs to learn Chinese.
Now for the clothing photos I took while living in Taiwan. Many are of brighter colored outfits because they caught my eye and make for better photos, but remember, those are the exception, not the rule.