Me and Chairman Mao
  Caped crusaders.
Is Shanghai a city of superheroes? Probably not, although walking the streets, you'd never know it by the number of women wearing capes. Yes, as I mentioned the other day, the cape is the summer accessory of choice for those Chinese women who make their way about town on bikes or scooters. (The walkers opt for parasols, although really they're just umbrellas, which I think are different. I mean, umbrellas don't just become parasols when the sun is out, do they?)

Why capes? To protect their skin from the sun while wearing a short-sleeved shirt or tank top, because here having a tan traditionally meant that you spent your days working outside, likely in a field-type situation, ergo you were probably poor, ergo if you had pale skin it meant you were rich and/or educated enough to spend your days indoors, which--as in most places--is generally considered a good thing. Especially the rich part, but I guess that goes without saying. In fact, whereas back home the stores are filled with sunless tanning lotions, the stores here are filled with whitening lotions. I know, I know--if only Chinese pharmacies were staffed with prepubescent boys instead of teenage girls, Michael Jackson would be moving to Shanghai instead of Africa (ding!), or wherever it is he's going that presumably doesn't have an extradition treaty with the US.

But less about pedophilia, and more about capes! (That is a sentence I will likely never write again, and I can't really say I'm sorry about it.) While not all capes not the same, they do all share certain characteristics, mainly that they all have long sleeves, they all are white, and they all seem to me made out of some sort of linen-y white fabric, which is sometimes embroidered with flowers or even tassels, so that the general effect is that of a wearable doily or possibly even tea cozy, although not really having any idea of what a tea cozy actually is I can't be sure about that last one.

Beyond that, there are seemingly limitless variations. While none of them that I've seen are long enough to truly billow--they only go about halfway down the back--the looser variety definitely flutters heavily in a manner approaching cape-like. Hence, you know, the whole "cape" appellation. Well, that and I think superheroes are just sort of cool in general, but whatever. At any rate, other cape types, possibly the more stylish ones--which, being less cape-ish, are less cool--are more form-fitting, looking more like half-finished shirts than anything else.

Like, for example, the "cape" this lady has on ...

No, that's not part of her outfit, as you can see from behind. Stylish, innit?

Here's a woman with the more traditional, fluttering type of cape. And seriously, what was she thinking? Did she not see that the blue tassels on her cape are a totally different color than the blue tassels on her hat? Really, that's just tacky, don't you think?

Now this is a woman who is serious about her sun shunning. Besides the cape, she's also busted out her FFV (full face visor) as well as some gloves. (Non-matching by the way, although the blue might work on our tassled friend from above.) Because obviously you wouldn't want your hands to be tan when the rest of your arm wasn't--that would just be weird ...

Here we have another variation on the cape. In fact, it's such a variation, there's no cape involved: it's just two "sleeves" with elastic on both ends that can be pulled over your bare arms on an as-needed basis. I can't decide if this is better or worse than the cape, although in this case maybe it's more a lesser of two evils situation? Probably that's it.

Of course, the principal drawback to the arm-only method is that if they aren't long enough, you'll end up with some sort of reverse Bizarro-world farmer tan where only your upper arms get sun. Like this poor soul ...

And finally, we have this lady, who--with her black arm gloves (silk, I think)--is either a rebel, some sort of evil sci-fi enforcer from the future, or a dominatrix on her way to work. Although if that were the case, I'm not sure the pink slippers would be appropriate. Then again, whatever floats your boat, as they say ...

That's all for now, but stay tuned for more interesting fashions, including not only the "shirt roll," but also the always interesting nightly "pajama stroll." And yes, that is exactly what you'd imagine ...
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