Mao suit gets a makeover as China's President Xi Jinping meets Dutch royals

Dowdy revolutionary garb gets a modern twist as president and first lady attend state dinner in Amsterdam

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 March, 2014, 1:56pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 March, 2014, 7:09am

Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of the Chinese Republic, introduced a modern Chinese tunic suit in the 1920s.

Traditionally known as the Zhongshan suit and later the Mao suit, it became a form of national dress that Chinese state leaders and officials of all ranks would wear at important events.

But Chinese leaders started to wear western-style business suits in public in 1980s as the country opened up, reserving the Mao suit for special political events or occasions with political implications.

President Xi Jinping appeared on Saturday at a state banquet at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam wearing a simplified and redesigned Mao suit as he and his wife Peng Liyuan attended dinner with the Dutch royals ahead of the Nucear Security Summit at The Hague.

According to the dress code of European royalty, guests at state banquets must wear formal attire.

“The tuxedo is a western dress and it might not suit a Chinese state leader. But the traditional Mao suit seems to carry too many political implications and looks dull,” China News Agency said in a commentary.

Xi wore a slim-cut, dark blue version of the traditional suit, with a standing collar. It sported three pockets, rather than four seen on the traditional Mao suit, and was set off with a Western-style pocket square on the chest.

In contrast to the dark blue, Peng wore a green dress with Chinese embroidery and black overcoat with traditional Chinese designs.

“The bright colour of Peng’s dress fit well with Xi’s suit, creating a harmonious match with ample Chinese characteristics,” Xinhua quoted designer Li Bonan as saying.

Li said Xi had helped present to the world modern and traditional Chinese fashion during his diplomatic visits.

The China News Agency commentary even went as far as to hail Xi’s suit the birth of new national dress.

Xi has shown his personal charm in surprising ways during official tours.

In February 2012, while vice-president, he took to the pitch to show off his soccer skills at a stadium in Dublin during an official visit to Ireland.