Chapter 42: New Clothes for Chinese New Year

Chinese tangzhuang silk jacket
I wanted a new beginning in Chinese New Year. So, I made an outfit to make a good impression on John's parents, and, later, a new job.

In Chinese New Year, wearing new clothes means a new beginning. Before Chinese New Year in 2003, I desperately needed a new beginning — because I’d lost my job at the Chinese Internet Company, and I was about to meet John’s parents.

After the remark from John’s father — that foreign women make good friends, not girlfriends — I needed something to make a fresh start with his family. That’s what I told Caroline, my Chinese friend, days before John and I would travel to his countryside home. We had just had dinner together that evening, and on our post-meal stroll, came across the tiny, brightly-lit store of a tailor I knew all too well.

My eyes twinkled like a child before the tantalizing toys in a Christmas store window display. “She’s the one who made my qipao.” The same qipao I wore for my birthday celebration the summer John and I fell in love. “Let’s go inside and take a look.”

Most of the fabric samples, hanging on the walls and racks, reminded me of days as a child, when I browsed Joanne Fabrics with my mother — they were Western in style and color. But then, as I walked deeper into the store, I found a bolt of royal green silk brocade with silver and pink flowers sprinkled all over the design.

As I stroked the fabric gently, I had a thought. “Do you think a new outfit would make a good impression for John’s parents?”

“I think they would like it.” There was no emotion in Caroline’s voice, but her almond eyes looked more gentle as she spoke — and I knew, in my heart, she agreed.

“Maybe a tangzhuang jacket,” I told the tailor, a middle-aged woman with a slight tan and unruly black hair piled on her head with a clip fastening it in place. She picked up the fabric, to see if there was enough available to sew it together.

“A long black skirt would look nice with this,” the tailor suggested.

“What about wool?” Caroline asked, then turning to me. “It’s better for the winter cold.”

Within minutes, the tailor measured me, took a deposit, and promised to finish within a week — which meant I’d have the outfit just in time for Chinese New Year.

Was I crazy to splurge on such an extravagance — at a time when my job, and relationship, faced uncertainties? Maybe not. Because, eventually, I would find success with John’s parents after wearing it at their home, and with a new company at a job interview, later in 2003.

Did you ever do something — in China or elsewhere — to create good luck?


Memoirs of a Yangxifu in China is the story of love, cultural understanding and eventual marriage between one American woman from the city and one Chinese man from the countryside. To read the full series to date, you can start at Chapter 1, or visit the Memoirs of a Yangxifu archives.

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5 thoughts on “Chapter 42: New Clothes for Chinese New Year

  • March 22, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    I did not read your whole blog and so please forgive me if I am wrong. I do not know much about China at all. I admire you though for being a Western Woman, living in China. Unless you know Chinese, it must be hard living over there. Especially away from your family.

    • March 22, 2010 at 11:04 pm

      @susan, thanks for the comment, and your kind words. 🙂

      @Kath, thanks for sharing your experience! You know, it was only this year that my husband and I truly faithfully followed the “new clothes in the new year” tradition — together. I actually made a special trip to get him a new fleece jacket, and I saved some of my new clothes I bought just after Christmas, to wear on Chinese New Year’s day. I guess we’ll find out if it really is good luck… 😉

  • March 22, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    I try to follow all of the guidelines for Chinese New Year and this year wore my brightest red and gold top on the first day of new year – but I’ve never actually bought new clothes for New Years…. mind you this one was my first here in Taiwan so maybe next year I’ll be more organised and in the swing of things! 🙂

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