Rachel Silberstein’s book A Fashionable Century: Textile Artistry and Commerce in the Late Qing (University of Washington Press, 2020) reveals how Qing fashion was produced at the intersection of commerce and culture. Drawing on a wide array of visual and textual sources, from pattern books and gazetteers to embroidered jackets and a sample book of ribbons, Silberstein both challenges the myth of the absence of fashion in China — perpetuated in large part, as is shown in the book, by museum narratives and collection practices — and presents women as active consumers, participants, and producers in Qing fashion.
A Fashionable Century is not only deft in its writing and visual analysis, but this well-written book is itself a beautiful object itself. Woven throughout the chapters are numerous paintings, photographs, prints, and objects, all of which bring the vibrant world of Qing fashion into vibrant (and well-trimmed) relief.
Sarah Bramao-Ramos is a PhD candidate in History and East Asian Languages at Harvard. She works on Manchu language books and is interested in anything with a kesike.