Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Shanghai: Metersbonwe Costume Museum

Since I haven't been able to write for the last several weeks, one of my writer-buddies, Dia Calhoun, suggested that I do whatever last research I can do for my next novel while I was still in Shanghai. Brilliant!

So I hauled myself over to People's Square in Shanghai where I had heard there was a marvelous Costume Museum on the 5th floor of Metersbonwe. Think of the clothing store as the Gap of China, the leading casual wear company with something like 5,000 stores.

Back in 2003, the CEO of Metersbonwe visited Cambridge with a professor from China. There, they took in a ton of museums...and saw Chinese antiquities on display...including old clothing. The professor apparently turned to the CEO and said something to the effect of: how sad that we have to go to a foreign country to see our own traditional clothing. And an idea was born: to create a world-class museum solely focused on China's traditional clothing through the ages and representative of the 56 minority groups within the country.

The museum is FREE and open to the public. The collection of clothes was absolutely breathtaking. Had I more time in Shanghai, I would call the curator and ask for a private tour. Apparently, the museum has amassed some 10,000 items. Only a small portion is on display. How cool would it be to see more of the collection--and get the inside scoop on each of the displayed items: where they were acquired, what each symbol meant...

I loved watching a woman embroider silk at the museum. And just as Dia promised, I got a ton of new ideas for my work-in-progress. More than that, I felt the first twinging to get back to writing.

Today I am thankful for the Curators of Culture who safeguard the best of humanity for all to share into the future. (And for friends who nudge me in the right direction.)


  1. Oh, that would be fascinating. I love textiles. I'm glad you're wrapping yourself in some good advice and happy activities. xo

  2. Oh, what gorgeous fabric (and what a cute outfit!). Now I'm wondering whether the U.S. has a costume/couture museum... hmm.

  3. Justina I collect Chinese textiles, especially dress accessories such as purses, fancases and headwear, and there are many books available which descibe the symblism and significance of the embroidered images, let me know if you would like some references.

  4. SHEENA: If you could let me know which books you recommend, that would be fantastic! (I can't click on your profile page to let you know...so I hope you're checking back here!!)