Differences Between Eastern And Western Fashion. And Why We Dress The Way We Do

We all have our own ways of dressing, our different tastes in fashion and clothes. Every day wear, and formal cultural attire and costumes, come in different styles around the world.

Going to school in Australia, Malaysia and Singapore meant I had opportunities to shop for clothes regularly in three different countries. As a kid, my Chinese-Malaysian mum took me to malls in these cities twice a year during the sales and pointed out clothes she thought looked good on me.

When we're comfortable with what we're wearing, we're confident. Model and businesswoman Heidi Klum | Forces of Nature.

When we’re comfortable with what we’re wearing, we’re confident. Model and businesswoman Heidi Klum | Forces of Nature.

Walking through clothing stores in Asia, we’re bound to see a sea of colourful clothes, be it colourful T-shirts with slogans or traditional sarees and cheongsams. That is, light coloured clothes usually outnumber the darker coloured ones. In Asian cultures, bright colours are auspicious. Red and yellow are symbolic of prosperity for the Chinese, the former signifying progress and the latter earth, farming and growth. During imperial eras, these colours were worn mainly by royalty, those with wealth and power.

Each time my hand brushed over a dark piece of shirt or pair of pants as I wandered stores in Malaysia and Singapore as a teen, my mum remarked, “Why all black? Black, black, black. Looks like you’re going to a funeral.” Death is taboo in several Asian cultures; anything associated with death is met with a blind eye. No surprise my mum hankered me to buy clothes of colour back then. On the other hand, Australians have a penchant for murky coloured clothes: Melburnians can’t seem to get enough of black garments and black is a common colour on the backs of many walking the streets of this city.

It’s not hard to find clothes with patterns on them in Asia. Certain patterns are lucky patterns – for instance batik designs are believed to bring Indonesian children luck. When we shopped together, my mum waved floral and checkered shirts in my face; tomboy me thought they made me look like a girly girl. When I moved back to Melbourne for high school, I was delighted to see “basic clothing” all the rage here (alongside animal prints): plain shirts and singlets on sale all year round at the front of bargain departmental stores like Target.

In comparison to Western dressing, Asian fashion falls on the conservative side. Modest dressing is the norm in some Asian countries because of religious standards that have been around for millions of years, or cultural values, which is the case with me. Plunging necklines and midriff bearing tops are clothing I don’t wear as I don’t see the need to show skin to feel good. In fact, I always feel cold when part of my body is exposed – my arms feel cold when I’m wearing a singlet when it’s 25’C outside. Historically, high necklines and voluminous floor-length dresses were popular with women in the west up until the world wars. Thereafter, exercise and fitness became popular, leading to more body-fitting attire on the market suited to active lifestyles – sparking fashionable trends in skimpy and tight clothing around us today.

There’s not forgetting the cute and kawaii look which never seems to go out of fashion in Japan and Korea. Bright coloured tops, stripy knee length socks and frilly hair accessories makes up a kawaii outfit for the ladies. For the men, bright tops and bottoms does the trick. Alongside fair skin, youthful and wrinkle-free appearances is something many Asians lust after desperately, so naturally some of us are obsessed with kawaii “teeny-bopper” styles. And some Asian girls reckon the kawaii look attracts the guys.

Heidi Klum, spreading the love in dark blue.

Heidi Klum, spreading the love in dark blue.

I’m guilty of dressing kawaii while grocery shopping. I’ve worn fluorescent pink and orange shirts with stars and hearts as I picked up raw, bloody chicken breasts and slimy fish at the supermarket, such shirts I found in the women’s clothes section in Malaysia. More often than not, these childish-looking tops are confined to the kids clothing sections in Australia.

How we dress tends to give away a bit about ourselves. As Lani over at Life, Universe and the Lani wrote, when we move countries, the way we dress may change. If we’re sharp, we might be able to tell which country someone is from judging by what they’re wearing. Right after I moved back to Australia, I had white Australians stop me on the streets asking if I was an international student, and a few of them told me my clothes looked “flamboyant”. Fair enough since more than half of my colourful wardrobe was accumulated whilst living in Malaysia.

The clothes on our back are a choice, a personal choice that says something about us. The clothes on our back are a form of self-expression, part of our identity and who we are as a person in a moment of time. Sometimes our outfits tell the world how we feel. After all, some of us decide what to wear depending on how we feel or pride style over comfort or vice-versa. My typical outfit I wear to get groceries is a light blue T-shirt and jeans (when I’m not in the mood to wear anything kawaii-looking, which is most of the time actually). Catching up with friends, preferably a blue T-shirt and jeans. Going to a fancy dinner, shirt and black-as-night jeans. Does that mean I’m a simple girl who doesn’t care much about following the latest fashion trends? Yes.

Some say the average Australian is laid-back and easy-going looking at what they like to wear. Loose fitting white shirt paired with chino shorts and flip-flops is the popular outfit of choice on a regular summer’s day here. For the longest time, I resisted wearing flip-flops, fearing my aunt’s words “stones, glass, anything can cut your bare toes” held true. Then one day my fancy slippers broke and I caved in, bought a $3 pair with the little money I had – and have worn them for the last three years. Easy as.

The clothes we wear say something about us. So does the way we act.

The clothes we wear say something about us. So does the way we act.

Going back to Lani’s post, sometimes we’re enticed to try and blend different elements of dressing because we want to understand and feel another culture…and think it’s cool. It’s a plausible reason why we see Asians appropriating Western standards of fashion and the other way round these days. Samfoo and jeans are a popular pairing in Asia. Australians are encouragingly more open towards wearing the hijab in a multicultural world.

Some reckon that as we age, our dress sense matures and we’re inclined to wear neutral coloured clothes. Not too sure if that will ever be me. Some time ago I went for a job interview in the corporate world, wearing a fluorescent orange top with ruffles down the chest. Fringe clipped to the side with a massive red butterfly clip. I looked twelve. I got the job.

At the end of the day, looks and what we wear only say so much about each of us.

What’s your favourite every day work/party outfit?

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163 thoughts on “Differences Between Eastern And Western Fashion. And Why We Dress The Way We Do

  1. It took a few tries to finish reading your post…those Heidi Klum photos were quite good 🙂
    Fashion in Asia is quite different from the States as well, pretty neat to see such different but beautiful styles coming from all different places. For guys, I think we’re pretty lucky as our style never seems to go out of style (at least for normal dudes), same pants and shirt 5+ years ago can still look modern for men…t-shirt and jeans please (or shorts during the Asian summers!). Cheers to a great day Mabel.

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    • Swimsuits is particular different in Asia compared to other parts of the world. Aside from that, you guys – men – are very lucky. You could even wear the same outfit for a few days and no one would really notice 😉 To be honest, I still have a few T-shirts and jeans that I wore frequently 10 years ago…and they have seen the light of day on my body recently…

      Thank you, Randall. Glad you like the photos. Heidi Klum is a beautiful woman, inside and outside.

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  2. Yoga pants! I love yoga pants! So comfy. Also washable, if the dog slobbers on them. If they made more yoga pants with pockets, I’d be in heaven.

    I grew up on the East Coast of the United States, where clothing tends to be more tailored, more conservative, and just, well, “more” because of the cold weather. When I moved to Southern California, it took me years to get used to wearing casual clothing, especially in a work environment.

    I recently went back to New York City, and I couldn’t get over how stylish it seemed everyone was in Manhattan. Gorgeous boots, coats, hats… I felt dowdy. I would absolutely succumb to fashion pressure if I lived there, I just know it. My closet would be fuller and my wallet would be thinner.

    Thanks for the post, Mabel — I enjoyed reading about the different styles in Asia. I always thought yellow was popular because of the similarity to gold, so, cool, I have learned new things today. 🙂

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    • Yes. Yoga pants with pockets. We really need those more! Pity yoga pairs are expensive, at least here in Australia. Which is why I generally buy tights and leggings instead but they really are not the same.

      You must have layered up quite a bit when you lived on the East Coast, which would explain why clothes are more tailored and fitting. Layering clothes, they have to fit just right or else you risk looking frumpy.

      I always love it when you stop by. And I love popping over to yours to read your stories 🙂

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      • It’s true, in cold weather you can either go for a tighter, tailored look or wind up looking like the Stay Puffed Marshmallow man. I save my Marshmallow look for the ski slopes.

        Yes, those tights and leggings are probably very flattering to your petite frame. A good choice.

        Lots of black in the U.S. also, BTW. Very practical, as it doesn’t show sweat stains as easily. Of course, if you have a white cat, you might rethink black…

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        • “Stay Puffed Marshmallow man” I really dislike looking like that. But that’s how a lot of parkas make you look like. Not a fan of the plastic-parka sounds when they rub up against solid material. I find that annoying.

          You are right. Black doesn’t show sweat stains easily and in general, you can wear a black top for multiple occasions. Same goes for black pants. Practical.

          Just don’t let the white cat near the black…easier said than done 😀

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I can certainly see you in that blue t-shirt Mabel. My usual outfit when I’m not running or cycling would be jeans/leggings and a longer top. For years my closet had a generally black theme but I am breaking out into more color.

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  4. You are being extremely sneaky with your choice of photos, I have to say! 😀

    There’s three things that I consider when I buy my clothes: size availability, cheap and comfort. Not exactly the typical measurement yardstick for well-groomed Asian men. It’s easier because I work as an engineer with an American company so the dress code for work is casual. For almost 8 years my wardrobe have only consisted of loose fitting Polo and T-shirts and jeans.

    I am definitely one of those classified as underdressed when being out and about. It is sometimes cause for being snubbed when I enter higher end shops and restaurants. It is also one of the main reasons why I can’t get a girlfriend according to my mom. And the one time I traveled to Tokyo for work, I officially felt like a muppet for the entire week. 😦

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    • I have absolutely no idea why you would say I’m being sneaking with my choice of photos. They are lovely photos of a beautiful, confident woman…

      “size availability, cheap and comfort” The trifecta of factors when it comes to clothes shopping. No wonder shopping is so hard. Thank you for breaking it down 🙂

      Come to think of it, Polo shirts seems to be popular with Malaysians. They are not very popular here with the general Australian population.

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  5. I remember the first time I visited Melbourne as an adult. I was living in Darwin at the time and had spent 30 years in Brisbane. I was struck by the black. Everyone in the CBD wore black with black hats and sunglasses. I thought I was walking amongst the undead. They all looked sad and bereft of joy. Sadly it’s a lasting impression I have of Melbourne.

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  6. Hi Mabel,

    Attire definitely speaks volumes for our personality, status and race. I have always liked bright colors and have worn them without caring for the weather and the raised eyebrows. I feel one should wear what one likes if it is carried well. I have heard that black is for the evening but I wear it in bright sunshine many times if I feel like wearing it.

    I love the pink and the red and all the hues of these colors. Our bridal attire also is one of these two colors. I often wonder why white is chosen for some brides whereas this world is full of such beautiful colors! Dull and subdued colors don’t attract me though they are so popular here in USA! Most of the times it is either blue or black, which is the dominant color.

    Plunging necklines are becoming popular all around the world now though I have no liking for them too. I feel if we grow up seeing a particular style of clothing, we tend to accept it as quite natural.

    I liked this topic, it has a great potential. Thanks for sharing another wonderful post.

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    • Like you, I generally prefer bright colours. If we’re confident wearing what colour we’re wearing, that is what matters. White wedding dresses, that is such an interesting topic of discussion. I suppose in some cultures that symbolises purity and a fresh beginning.

      Dull and subdued colours aren’t exactly striking, and I guess some of us like wearing those colours so as to blend into the background – and they are colours that tend to be more formal colours too, suited to certain occasions.

      Thank you, Balroop, for the encouragement as always 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Cool post Miss Mabel. 🙂 I reckon you are super cool, and I love your sassy, funky look.

    When I was in Singapore earlier this year, I noticed that the woman were dressed in black mostly, so uber stylish it made me cringe at the fact I left the house wearing even my best clothes. LOL! But…. I like looking at the way different cultures wear clothes, and its crazy the way it differs so broadly.

    I was chatting to my mom about clothes (specifically my style) the other day, she mentioned that she felt my out there personality didn’t seem to match the clothes I enjoy kicking about in. She says I am really modest and you wouldnt easily associate my look with my personality. I tend to wear more muted colours, jeans and converse sneakers, maybe a tailored blazer and heels if I’m heading to a party.

    Wishing you a super evening lil sis. xox

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    • Nawww. It’s amazing to hear my big sister call me cool. Thank you! I follow after you…you the sassier and classier one 😉 Hey, that rhymes..

      I didn’t really notice that Singaporeans wore a lot of black. Last time I was there I remember the locals wearing bright colours. Then again, it has been a few years and fashion styles and trends revolve faster than we can catch up.

      You dress sense is amazing as you are, Miss Anna. I’m sure your mum was just offering her opinion 🙂 Your laid back kicking-around clothes sound very comfy…very laid-back too. Which I think you are 🙂

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  8. Thanks for the mention, Mabel 😉 How do I dress? Hmmm. I’m rather girly for work. 98% of the time I wearing a skirt or a dress. But when I’m not working, I’m rather boring, casual, comfortable, in other words, I can’t be bothered. I love lounge wear, sleep wear, just stuff to wear around the house where I can read and write in utter comfort. I can’t do that “pain is fashion, fashion is pain” thing anymore. I must be comfortable. I hate heels for this reason. Super post, as usual, Miz Mabel! xxoo

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    • “I can’t be bothered.” Love it, Lani. That is my motto too when it comes to dressing outside of work. I’m happy wearing a ratty, falling apart T-shirt while lazing around at home. Don’t get it how some girls like to wear make-up at home.

      Perhaps it’s an age thing. As we grow older, we just want to be comfortable and enjoy life. Thank you, Miss Lani!

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      • I know, right? Makeup at home! I never got that. In fact, I’d never wear the stuff if I didn’t have shinny skin. But makeup is fun sometimes. I feel like I’m always wearing it to work – when I feel lazy, I’m like, “No, Lani, put it on. Make the effort.” 😛

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        • Haha! I have oily skin too, on the forehead. We have so much in common… It’s the norm for women to wear makeup all over the world. If you dress up for work, why not dress up your face too as many think. Sigh, what a world we live in.

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  9. ‘Apparel oft proclaims the man’, said the bard in a tone of conventional wisdom that holds true even today. Dressing, between formals and informals, must be appropriate for the occasion. Generally, my preference is for jeans and Ts or shirts, as a matter of comfort and convenience. As for colours, I like to wear light blue, pink and yellow shirts. There is an aura about black, even though it is associated with death and all things negative even in India, as black is also the colour of Saturn, a slow moving planet. Your journey through multi-cultural dressing is an interesting read, mabel…

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    • Thank you, Raj. And your comment was very insightful to read. Quite a few strands of dressing and fashion we could talk about.

      Generally I find dressing formally much more harder than dressing casually. With formal events and functions, there’s usually a dress code to adhere to and time often needs to be spent looking prim and proper for these occasions.

      Colours and planets. Such a profound dimension of thought. Now you’ve got me thinking of other colours and their planets. Much appreciated.

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  10. I personally love the “kawaii” Japanese style dress, anything a little nerdy/dorky/cutesy 🙂 Since I’m small I find these clothes match me and my personality. I’ve always dressed different to most, to flatter my tiny figure and found unique clothes and jewelery in op shops since I can rarely find clothes that fit in department stores.

    I love wearing unique styles that match my personality and its definately an important part of your self expression 😀

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    • Growing up, I never went to op shops. Firstly, there weren’t that many in Malaysia and Singapore. Secondly, my parents didn’t want me buying second-hand or donated clothes even if they looked great, believing “everything new and not touched brings good luck”. Quite a few Chinese parents I’ve met encourage their kids to buy new luggage bags when they plan on holidaying overseas….you get the picture :/

      I think kawaii style looks good on small and petite people! So I think you look very cute in what you wear. Maybe we should go shopping together 😉 When we’re not afraid to show our personality through our style, we are confident. Good on you ❤

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      • Yes, I’ve heard that is the custom in China, I studied some Chinese/Asian writers in Year Nine and that was quite important in their culture, not carrying over bad luck/spirits in old clothing, buying new clothes for a new year, when moving, travelling etc. I think its an interesting concept.

        I’d love to go shopping with you, thanks haha I agree, confidence in what you wear and how you express yourself is key 🙂

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        • Come to think of it, it’s also important in Chinese and Asian cultures to not wear ripped or torn clothing for the same reasons.

          You have to take me to an op shop someday. None where I live and I am tired of shopping in the city. Nothing…fits…tiny…me 😀

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  11. well how cool that you have some fun clothes – and I had to click on samfoo to see what that was – but I agree- at the end of the day our clothing only says so much. also, the image of you in the interview is nice – your confident sense of style must have show through. For me it all comes down to comfort – I prefer boring and quieter clothes – but really I prefer a good cotton and well-made over a design or edgy style. Even though the “simlply vera” line has brought me into some fun prints – nothing too much sometimes just colors layered – and they are inexpensive, yet well made with a decent cotton or cotton blend – and oh so nice.

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    • Hahaha! I was wondering if anyone would actually take me seriously at the interview…I already thought it was a joke the company liked my application. Really wishes the orange blouse was not collared, though…it was hot to wear.

      Perhaps as we grow older we choose comfort over style, as you prefer. I’ve always wondered: the softer the material, the better? Food for thought.Sometimes the way you wash clothes affects their texture…

      Oooh. That Simply Vera line sounds like a good fit for you and you bubbly personality 🙂

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      • ah you are so sweet to say that about my personality – and I bet at the interview it came across as confident -or just in the know about fashion and bold in a good way… because most of the time when I see a look like that (you know — a nice color and/or ruffles) well it has an artsy feel. So does nice hair (like styled or smoothed) – and sometimes even some tattoos have that artsy interest— .. but I guess it depends.

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  12. I always try just to wear what feels comfortable for me. Only on special occasions I put on nicer shirts however I never feel good in them. I am a big fan of casual clothes which are lose fitting 🙂

    The fashion world in Asia is completly different to what I am used to in Europe. However especially in China some fashion is rather weird, odd combinations or going to buy groceries in pajamas,,,

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  13. It’s interesting. Like you know from my winter photos, most people in Oslo wear black or dark clothes. It’s a bit weird, because you would think that they’d get enough darkness in the winter already…

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  14. That’s a fascinating article, you always write about topics that I don’t read about elsewhere! I learned a lot in your piece. In Eastern Europe we tend to consider dark clothes elegant, so business style dress will consist of either dark or muted light tones, no vivid patterns, no bright colours. Very colourful clothes and patterns are reserved for people with alternative lifestyles and are considered a mark of poor taste… Of course we realise that different countries see it differently!

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    • It’s similar in Australia too, I wonder why. Bright coloured clothes always tend to be thought of as childish…then again, I suppose if you want to stand out even a bit in the workplace, why not wear a splash of bright. Could be a bright top, or a bright necklace.

      Thank you for the nice words, Mara 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I love your photos Mabel and I’ve often thought of the differences in clothes between countries. 20 years ago my Belgian friend said she could always tell the americans because they wore jeans and tennis shoes. While that is probably still true that we wear those things because they’re comfortable, I personally prefer summer skirts below the knee and sandals. That’s my “uniform” in nice weather. 🙂 I’m not much into fashion actually. I much prefer to spend money on my camera equipment!! 🙂

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  16. Interesting post, Mabel. I admit that I am not good in this department. Most of the time I am wearing t-shirts and jeans, particularly after I retired. I do like to start learning something about fashion… just because I know so little about it 😉

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    • Thanks, Helen. I’m not big on the fashion scene either, always preferring a T-shirt and jeans like you. Comfort all the way, because when we’re comfortable, we can focus on doing other things. Like taking photos 😉

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  17. I like wearing dresses, skirts and nice shoes, but… I am very lazy. I almost always end up wearing jeans and a t shirt! I am glad I have always worked in places that didn’t have a dress code, otherwise I would have been in serious trouble, haha.

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    • “I am very lazy” I think that’s what a lot of us feel when it comes to dressing – open our closet, grab the nearest clothing to us…or grab the one we wore yesterday. Easy 😀

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  18. I had a long comment written and ready to post yesterday and my computer decided to turn off for updates before I could hit the post button. So, here I go again. [See, I have the worst luck with computers.]

    When I was writing a section of my book about boarding the plane from Vancouver to Taipei, I mentioned that I hadn’t even left Canada but I felt like I was in another world. Women with cute, colorful t-shirts, others wearing clothes with lots of sparkle and beading – the style was nothing like in Canada.

    In Taiwan, I feel everyone has their own distinctive style and it seems that trends are not that apparent as they are in Canada or other Western countries. Also, people don’t bat an eye if you are wearing something different and ‘out there.’

    I tend to wear jeans or pants most of the time and dress it up with a nice shirt and accessories but I also like to dress up when going out as well. I consider my taste as being simple but chic [for lack of a better word.]

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    • Oh no, I am so sorry to hear that. Computers can be so temperamental at times!

      It’s fascinating how standing out and wearing colourful clothes is considered completely normal in Asia. You could wear mismatched coloured socks there and almost no one would think you are crazy. Then many in Asia like to accessorise their outfits with cute accessories too.

      Very sensible dress sense you have there. Sounds very classy chic 🙂

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  19. Different occation need a different clothing, sometimes i wear the tuxedo and sometimes i’ using the red chinese coat on CNY, so as long i’m comfortable i think i’m gonna wear what i want n when i want, then i’m gonna be a freak, lol

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  20. I like dresses. I always wear dresses to work and as well for party or leisure events. There are some Batik dresses that quite fashionable nowadays but gosh, the prices are crazy expensive! I would not mind to wear Indonesian batik dresses to parties in the Netherlands, usually the Dutch appreciate the ethnic looking fashions, so I feel special when wearing them 🙂 Great post and thoughts again Mabel..
    Oh, have I told you that I love your new blog looks! Your caricature looks awesome! Great art!

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    • I can imagine you in a long flowing dress looking very beautiful, Indah! I remember visiting Indonesia a while back and went to a batik factory. The people there really took their time to make the patterns and batik costumes. So I think it’s worth what you’re paying for.

      Thank you. The header was illustrated by a talented illustrator called Anna (or Pinodesk)!

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      • The hand made batik is indeed worth to have but they are very expensive. Nowadays some batik produced massively, bit lousy quality sometimes 😦 Thanks for letting me know about the illustrator, Anna is very talented (I found her in Etsy) 🙂

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        • My parents each have a set of Indonesian batik, a one off splurge from the batik factory which was quite small. They bought it while in Indo but have never found the occasion to wear it!

          Anna is indeed very talented. I found about her from Allane over at Packing My Suitcase 🙂

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  21. I love skirts, colourful and with nice patterns. My favourite colour is turquoise. When I was a teenager, I was always dressed in black. My parents were quite concerned, they thought I was depressed. In a way, they were a bit right about that. It’s going to sound cliché,but since my trip to South America in 2011, I’ve always dressed up with bright and colourful clothes ! I think the mood influence your way of choosing clothes.

    I’ve also noticed the difference between continents. Maybe I’m biased, but I have the feeling that the clothes in Europe are more stylish (especially in Barcelona) than anywhere else in the world. In the uk,the less clothes you have, the better it is. It’s very common to see buttocks or boobs while being on an escalator 😀

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    • I can so imagine you in a bright, colorful and flowing skirt! It suits your personality. I too went through a black phase when I was a teen. If I didn’t wear a black shirt, it would be a dark blue one with dark blue pants.

      Less clothes, more bum and flesh. Makes sense. In the summer in Australia, that’s what you see a lot everywhere. Short shorts are a hit here this season 😀

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  22. When we lived in the Philippines, I never wore jeans. It was too hot for me. At the time (the 1970s and ’80s) dressmakers were inexpensive and ready-made clothes were less available than they are now. My husband traveled a lot, and he liked to shop, so he often brought home pieces of batik and silk for me to have made into dresses. I love patterns and bright colors. (My next blog post has a couple photos of dresses I had made.)

    Now I live in Seattle. Most of the year the weather is cool, so I wear long pants and jeans. Most of my pants are blue, black or brown. Black is a useful color because it goes with almost everything. I can’t afford a dressmaker in the United States, so I have to buy whatever is available in the stores. For the past few years, I couldn’t find beautiful patterned tops. This year it’s better.

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    • Lucky you, handmade pieces of clothing exclusively for you from your husband. Maybe you still have them some where. Times have certainly changed this days. Having a custom-made dress or suit can cost up to a few hundred dollars. Sounds like a very practical wardrobe you have today in Seattle. Black clothing is certainly practical. Sometimes I can get away with wearing a black T-shirt under a spiffy blazer at work.

      Looking forward to that blog post of the dresses you made.

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  23. great piece, mabel.
    as you are well aware, it is just too hot and humid in malaysia to put too ‘much’ on, therefore, my work attire is l/s shirt/pants + a tie (and maybe a jacket) when meeting customers. it doesn’t help that i sweat like a pig when i feel warm/hot. for parties, casual all the way, jeans/chinos and a shirt.
    if i may ask, did you not get my comment for your previous post?
    ken

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    • Of course, Malaysia is forever hot and humid. Very practical outfit you wear to work. Polo T-shirts are very popular in Malaysia, I wonder why. They are definitely not at all popular here in Australia, even in the warmer months.

      Thanks, Ken. Unfortunately I didn’t get your other comment. I am so sorry about that. It’s not in the Spam folder which I check daily 😦

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  24. I always learn so much reading your blog AND comments! Vocabulary alone: I’d never heard the terms ‘op shop’ or ‘kawaii’ — but I shop in ‘thrift stores’ and ‘flea markets’ and when I did a google image on ‘kawaii’ I recognized the style.
    I always liked wearing black for travel, especially in cities like London and NYC, where we ride mass transit and pick up smudges on anything light colored. I bought a tan travel satchel once and it lasted one trip before it looked worn out. And, regarding traveling in black: I feel more comfortable blending in, especially when away from home.

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    • I’ve always thought kawaii styles were everywhere at conventions like comic-book, sci-fi conventions…maybe it really depends on the convention. Yes, thrift shop would be the equivalent of op shots in Australia, just different terminology in different parts of the world 🙂

      So sorry to hear about your tan travel satchel. I try to buy dark brown or black bags. The lighter coloured ones have previously gotten stained by rubbing against my jeans sadly.

      Thank you for the kind words, Sandy. I don’t know what else to say 🙂

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  25. Particularly with the global economy and social media, the cultural lines between everyday street wear is blurring. And obviously the physical environment is a determining factor. Jeans and a t-shirt does not really look out of place in any country. Just the slogan on the tee changes with the individual.

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  26. Hey.. I have always liked bright colors and have worn them without caring for the weather and the raised eyebrows. I feel one should wear what one likes if it is carried well. I have heard that black is for the evening but I wear it in bright sunshine many times if I feel like wearing it. I would absolutely succumb to fashion pressure if I lived there, I just know it. My closet would be fuller and my wallet would be thinner… 🙂

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    • Good on you for wearing what colours you want when you like it. You are right. We should feel free to wear any colours to each occasion (unless some rule states so). If we are feeling the colour and if it makes us happy, why not 🙂

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  27. I go for comfort and luckily I work in a place where I can wear casual clothes most days – T-short and jeans in winter, light summer dress in the hotter months. I love colour but I think perhaps some people feel too conspicuous in colourful clothes so they stick to darker tones. Melbourne definitely has a lot of black, but most of it is very stylish 🙂

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    • Lucky you, Maamej. I wish all work places allowed for casual dress…unfortunately I don’t think that will become a reality anytime soon. I suppose with casual dress in Australian workplaces there are certain pieces of clothing we can’t wear – ripped garments and flip-flops. At least that’s one of my previous workplaces said.

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      • I guess you have to have safe footwear in most places. We’re an NGO so we only have to really dress up if we’re going to public events. Not that we’re all slobs, by any means, but it’s nice to know that you can just throw on a t-shirt & jeans & not worry too much, most days – so much more comfortable 🙂

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  28. As always, a provocative and stimulating post. Kawaii! Amazing how “cute” is so popular. Little schoolgirls — of thirty and forty? Ah well. I think of Australians as open and outdoorsy and casual, so a t-shirt and jeans sounds appropriate to me. I think Heidi Klum looks like a toothpick in these photos, though.
    As for me, I’m originally from the New York metro area. So what do I wear more than anything else? You got it, BLACK. The urban look. Here in New England it’s not the norm, but it’s what I’m most comfortable with.

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    • Your perception of Australians is spot on. We really are a very casual bunch when it comes to dressing. As for Heidi Klum, I have to agree that she does look like a toothpick. She looked reedy when I saw her…nothing wrong with that if she wants to look that way, though.

      Haha! Sounds like you don’t mind wearing black one bit. I bet choosing clothes is relatively easier for you then!

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  29. We love colour… We very rarely wear “neutral” colours and forget black… We love comfortable, casual and practical clothes. Ideally, we could go to work dressed the same. Sadly not, but even then, we make are what we weather is comfortable. 🙂

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  30. Such an interesting post Mabel, being a fellow Asian I do understand where you are coming from, cultural and religious values are somewhat deeply rooted in our every day life which I personally don’t mind. It gives a sense of belonging to somewhere, Identity. Your whole article gave me a sense of “Be who you are”, I like how confidently you carry yourself. Black is my favorite color too. I like how sleek and elegant it looks, both for party wear and casual too.

    And the fact that you got the job in the end just proves all that you said above. As they say “Be who you are, Everybody else is taken” 😉

    Have a wonderful week ahead Mabel ! ❤

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  31. Very interesting as always Mabel! I live in the southern US where it’s usually sunny and warm and clothes tend to be colorful and fun. Our family is in NYC and it’s all about black, black, black!! So it’s not just between countries, it’s also within different areas of one country. I literally cannot shop in NYC for things to wear at home. People in the south also tend to be more open and generally happier. So which came first, the chicken or the egg?!

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    • Thanks, Tina. Love how you used that chicken or the egg analogy. Was it colourful clothes that make people generally happier, or did happier people choose to wear colourful clothes. Questions which we may never know the answer to!

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  32. Dress? Fashion? Hmmm. I am not into fashion thingy. I will wear those that are suited me well. Not into the latest fashion trends. Hehehe. For example are my jeans. I am still wearing the one that I bought about 5 or 8 years ago. Until a friend told me that it is out-fashioned. And he gave me one as a gift. And now, I am still wearing the gift-jeans.
    But I think, what matter the most is how the dress suited you and where you are. I mean, if you are going to a traditional market, you don’t need to wear any party dress right? What would you say if I saw some wearing those in a market.

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  33. My style has changed over the years. I used to wear more dresses and skirts for work and for weekend wear. I used to wear flat sandals.

    But several lifestye changes and time have caused me to more business casual, which pulls me away from many skirts or dresses:
    *I work in a division for an employer that doesn’t mind business casual..especially when we’re not meeting external folks.
    *I’ve become more relaxed in my career –meaning acquired more work experience that I don’t constantly to need to dress up in suits to impress someone else. I will dress better for meetings and when I’m training a group of employees.
    *Cycling to work has made me more practical in my business clothing changes
    *Age- I’ve actually been appalled by alot of current styles which are wide or poor quality. Alot of women in Canadian prairies tend to be plumper and much bigger boned. I don’t fit that body type at all.

    I agree in general, that alot of Asians tend to be more conversative in terms of showing less upper body skin. I actually consider it a good thing..put the focus of others somewhere else when they see you. I cringe when I see women in my age bracket, 50’s and up, still showing decolletage. It’s kind of sad.

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    • Like quite a few people here, you are a very practical dresser. I suppose if you were to get away with not dressing corporate, you’d have to work in the non-corporate sector most of the time. Or have a very nice boss if you do work in the corporate environment.

      Since you’re a cyclist, I suppose you want to get in and out of your cycling attire or work clothes when you’ve arrived at work or leaving work. It only makes sense.

      I never got skimpy fashion, even among my generation. Never liked it. It’s not often that I see women much older than me showing some skin…maybe older women in Australia are rather conservative.

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      • 2 former employers, had a dress code which meant women had to wear business clothing and not bare legs with beach flip flops. The 1 employer was a nation law firm and the other, was working for the courts and judges. I provided service to the judges…a world which is behind closed doors.

        I do see a lot more Asian-descent women in North America, wearing skimpier clothing with decollatage, etc. than I ever saw 2 decades ago. What probably surprises people is that I do wear skirts about 2-4 inches above my knee, as part of business attire…at my age. For a short person like me, I’m sure leg viewing isn’t as impressive as someone 5’10”. I just find it’s more convenient to pack up in a bike pannier.

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        • I’ve never worked in a place that allows beach flip flops. Exposed toes is something many employers do not tolerate…and in all honestly not all of us have the best smelling feet.

          Above-knee skirts seems to be all the rage these days, especially worn over tights or leggings in Melbourne.

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  34. Hi Mabel! Excellent post and the photography of Heidi Klum was just gorgeous! Not only is she a beautiful woman, she seems genuinely lovely and good-hearted as well! You captured all of that in a single photo! I love fashion, it is such a fun way to express ourselves as individuals and get the opportunity to be creative! I loved the work outfit you were wearing when we first met 🙂 it was so professional but super cute at the same time with the bow! I have a collection of headbands and beanies at home and I like to mix and match the colours depending on the day and how I feel. It’s so much fun! I don’t have a favourite outfit so much as the accessories I like to add to the outfit! Scarves, hats, boots, jewellery, gloves and more! Just like your bow, a simple hair piece can really complete the look! xxx

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    • I really liked the talk Heidi Klum gave in front of Myer. She spoke about how we can all look good no matter our size and different outfits (lingerie) flatter different figures. She was also very positive and upbeat like you 🙂 To be honest, the first photo was cropped out of a much larger photo I took 😉

      LOL. The orange ruffled shirt I wore to the interview is one of my favourites. In hindsight, I could have done without the black blazer and show off the orange in all it’s glory… It’s getting a bid faded so I save it for special occasions. I think you pull of beanies well…I would like to wear beanies but they make my hair flat!

      Liked by 1 person

  35. I believe I still consider my kind of fashion under modest dressing. I normally wear t-shirts, long sleeves, shorts, pants, polo shirts, and the like that fits perfectly.

    Not comfortable wearing something loose. It makes me feels skinny.

    PS

    Thanks for using Hedi Klum’s images there. She’s of my favorite “angels”. The number one on my list is Doutzen Kroes. Too much information there… 🙂

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    • You certainly know how to dress to flatter your silhouette, Sony. I often find it hard to find T-shirts that fit just right on me – either they squeeze me too hard or they are a baggy fit in the wrong places. However, I think your buff physique is also a reason why clothes fit you well.

      Don’t blame you for liking Heidi Klum. I’m perfectly straight but Heidi is one gorgeous woman 😉

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    • Mothers will always be mothers and think that they know best. Sometimes they do. Sometimes perhaps not. Good on you for sticking to your own fashion sense. I’m sure you look good in what you wear.

      Liked by 1 person

  36. I’m glad you know you dress kawai because thats fun! I’m boring, my usual uniform would be jeans and flip flops (now that the weather is warming up). And the top in black if possible. I like black so my parents always say I dress for a funeral, so annoying. But the other day my 95 year old grandma (who is very elegant and wise 😉 ) said to me: you wear o lot of black. I said yes (thinking now she’ll tell me not to). Then she said: well it suits you well so don’t listen to anyone that tells you not to! LOL 🙂

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    • Half of my closet are filled with tops that are patterned or with print on them. You can certainly say I like a bit of pop and colour when it comes to my fashion sense. I’m sure you look great in jeans and flip flops – practical and comfy too.

      Your grandma is certainly very honest and has good taste. Very nice of her to say that to you too. She is very cool 🙂

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      • I always try to be “brave” enough for patterns but fail most of the time, lol! My grandma is really cool. I have a (male) cousin who has really long hair (as in heavy metal type) and all the uncles were telling him to chop it off. They told my grandma to tell him too. And she turns around and says: oh my handsome grandson, your long hair is so beautiful, keep it that way! 🙂 hahaha

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  37. my everyday outfit would be jeans, chucks (or ballerina flats lol :), some blouse (don’t really like T-shirts) and a scarf and usually a very colorful one 🙂 I just love accessorizing… jeans have become such a uniform world-wide… 🙂 when I dont wear jeans, I wear dresses… way more feminine 🙂

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    • What a simple, practical yet trendy outfit. I suppose you worry more about your camera and taking photos than your clothes 😉 I wish I liked accessories. Necklaces and scarves look pretty to my eye but I find they always get in the way, lol.

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  38. Ohhh so you like wearing black?
    There is something I always say: with black, white and jeans you can never go wrong 😀
    It is true that when you move to another country you end up changing the way you wear, it happened to me many times in different ways, but I always had my own way of dressing, not really minding what people will think 😀

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    • I used to like wearing black a lot. But these days, I like colourful clothes…which makes me look like a little kid 😀

      Hahaha! So true, black and white with jeans are practical. Then again, I don’t like white because it stains easily!

      I see Allane as a very casual dresser. Always in an outfit that is comfortable to walk Enzzo in 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • No worries, Amy. You are very sharp. I have indeed put a few older posts up on my blog over the last few weeks to change it up around here… Haven’t been blogging for a while, trying to work on my book and enjoy life 😉

      Now, there will be a new post later this week, so the older posts are back where they belong 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  39. Beautiful article.. I am an Indian Asian and yes there is a lot of difference between the dressing style across cultures and countries.. I also don’t like wearing too short or exposing clothes not because I am not allowed to but because I feel more comfortable the other way.. and yess.. My mom too shouts at me when I buy too much black.. lol 🙂

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  40. What a great article, Mabel! Love to read your articles and your discussions about such topics. They are all very interessting. I have noticed that I dress different depending on where in the world I am. When I move to another country I usually buy the traditional clothes. In India, I used the saree. In africa the typcial dress. I never used shorts or short skirts, which I use home in Norway or Bolivia. It is also a matter of respect… Because they do not use these outfits there…

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    • Thanks, Hanne! 🙂 It’s so nice to hear you buy traditional clothes wherever you go. I’m sure the locals are always happy to assist you in finding the right size and telling you about the attire. So true, shorts and skimpy clothing are seen as disrespectful in certain places. So are skinny jeans and tight clothing like yoga pants…it’s the case in many parts of Asia – baggy is best here.

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  41. You should be lucky to live in Australia where it never gets really cold. Here with me in Germany temperatures may fall sometimes to – 20° Celsius in a harsh winter, actually only quite normal only – 2° Celsius during the day what is not really icy here. Besides really nice to read your intercultural experiences.& snowy greetings from Berlin which is also a nice, pleasant city!

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    • That is cold in Germany. Hope you stay warm when the cooler months hit. I’m guessing many over there wear many layers of clothing and thick garments when winter comes around. Here in Melbourne where I live, it’s around 10-14’C in the day. Best wishes to you in Berlin.

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      • January is normally our coldest month, and when we have then also snow this can mean great fun especially ain the mountains. But a lot of people here also prefer to travel to more warmer regions and countries if possible what is also not bad in winter.

        Liked by 1 person

  42. I don’t usually like to follow clothing trends, but I did have a hoodie & jeans phase. Now I’m loving my comfy yoga pants. 😉 I still wear hoodies occasionally, but not all the time.

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