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date: 13 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article explores a lesser known source of graphic images of male and female figures produced during the early decades of the People’s Republic of China. Propaganda posters, stage performances, and cinema suggest a high level of visibility for women in Mao’s China. In contrast, how-to-sew manuals and pattern books, which in Japan, Western countries, and even the Eastern Bloc were dominated by images of women and designs of clothing for them, in China show an overwhelming preponderance of designs for men’s clothing, and graphic drawings of the male figure. The main exceptions were privately authored manuals produced in the early 1950s, preceding socialist transformation. The article argues that the associated development of an everyday “regime of invisibility” for women was linked to the development and intensification of the Mao cult, and the obliteration from the emotional (affective) landscape of objects of desire that might rival Mao himself.

Keywords: gender, clothing, patriarchy, desire, visibility, androgyny, pattern books, dress design, Mao cult

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