It’s that time of year again—the only time other than Christmas where wearing all red is an appropriate fashion choice: Chinese New Year! And that means you need a Chinese New Year styling guide.

Although COVID-19 has ruined many things, it can’t stop people from dressing up for the New Year. Even if your dog is the only ones left to impress, at least you’ll be going out in style.

Dressing for CNY

As we all know, the essence of Chinese New Year is the color red. Red lanterns, red couplets, red hongbaos (packets of money) and of course, red clothing are all familiar elements for this festive season. 

The question is, how should you wear it? Well, because red is a bold, striking color, one of the easiest ways to dress in it is to choose one red statement piece. Then you can style the rest of your outfit around it.

 For example, it is much easier to wear one nice dress than to try and match all your clothes to a blouse or skirt. That way, all you have to do afterwards is pick out a coat, some jewelry, and a pair of shoes, instead of doing complicated coordination. 

Chinese actress Ni Ni, Yang Mi and Zhou Dongyu provide great examples below. 

If you feel brave enough, you could also choose traditional Chinese clothing to replace the formal attire. 

Another choice is to try on the beautiful qipao, or cheongsam. Traditional and elegant, it is a great addition to this Chinese holiday. 

A tip: red qipaos may end up seeming more old-fashioned, and certain styles are traditionally reserved for brides.

See? Although similar in age, the actress wearing red seems much more mature than the other. 

Wearing Red Casually

As we all know, COVID-19 has made get-togethers in America exceedingly impossible. People stranded overseas may have to spend the most important Chinese holiday alone. 

Even friends in the same city may be parted until the situation stabilizes. For many people, dressing up doesn’t even feel worth it. 

So the following are some ways to wear red casually in everyday life. That way, you can partake in the CNY season without looking too out of place buying groceries or on zoom. 

1. Red Accessories

The first tip is to reserve the color for accessories. Scarfs, hats, bags, and jewelry are great complements to our winter attire. 

Chinese fashion blogger Miss-Lola does a great job here. Some other examples are placed below.

2. Red Tops

Although it seems counterintuitive, many beauty gurus claim that dresses are, by far, the easiest outfits to piece together. That is because dresses don’t require as much styling as other items do. 

To dress casually however, it is inevitable that dresses may feel too formal for a 3-hour zoom class. In this case, you can utilize the camera angle and focus on bright tops.

Instead of picking shirts or blouses with complicated patterns, try slipping on a red sweater. Not only does the color pop on screen, but it also fits with any kind of bottom. Jeans, skirts—it’s a one-for-all. 

For newcomers, a plain top is the safest choice. For more experienced consumers, you could also consider patterned sweaters. Although harder to coordinate with, the end result may be considerably more unique.  

3. Outerwear

Of course, don’t forget about coats! Long or short, they’re a great way to add depth and layers to an outfit. Even if you're just buying toilet paper, at least you can be fashionable and warm. 

In the end, the reason for wearing red on Chinese New Year is much more than just for looks. It’s because every CNY is dappled with lanterns, crimson and shining above the dinner table. 

It’s because with every snowy winter,  mothers put on their rosy sweaters and start kneading the dough for dumplings. Not only that, but it is because red is the color of love, of celebration, and of all our relatives, crowding the living room table for mahjong. 

Finally, it is because no matter how hard or how far, CNY is the promise that everything will be ok. So even though there are no parties this year, or even family dinners, put on your red clothes to commemorate your very own Chinese New Year. 

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Emilie Zhang

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