First lady lets new Hong Kong leader reign on day in fashion stakes

Glamorous Peng Liyuan stays out of the limelight as Carrie Lam has four outfit changes, one appearing to show her loyalty to the mainland

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 July, 2017, 5:51pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 July, 2017, 12:03am

China’s glamorous first lady Peng Liyuan let Hong Kong’s new leader, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, steal the show as Lam pulled out all the stops to dress to impress on her first day on the job.

Peng, clad in a long-sleeved, charcoal grey cheongsam, stayed out of the limelight as she wrapped up her first official visit to Hong Kong with her husband, President Xi Jinping, on Saturday.

Lam, in contrast, had four outfit changes in the span of six hours to match each event that marked her first day as chief executive.

The city’s first female leader appeared in a bright, floral cheongsam paired with a scarlet, fitted jacket during the flag-raising ceremony, followed by a peach cheongsam and a long white coat at her inauguration.

She then changed into a turquoise top and black slacks during a visit to the construction site of the bridge linking Hong Kong with Zhuhai and Macau. She finally bade farewell to Xi and Peng at the airport in a cream-coloured blazer over a muted bronze floral cheongsam.

“Peng choosing to wear black must have been a very conscious decision so she doesn’t upstage Carrie [on her big day]. You can see from what Peng usually wears that she’s not adverse to bright colours and high glamour,” said Jeanne Tan, an associate professor in the Polytechnic University’s Institute of Textiles and Clothing.

Tan praised Lam for her choice of attire, but also noted that it sent a deliberate message.

“These are the most beautiful outfits I’ve seen her in. This red outfit is a break from her usual image as a very efficient, professional civil servant. Her wearing red is also using non-verbal language to showcase her allegiance and loyalty to the mainland,” Tan added.

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Lam also set up new Facebook and Instagram pages, with her first post a photo and video of her having her hair done and make-up applied in a salon at 5.30am.

Despite Peng’s more understated looks on Saturday, local fashion experts heaped praise on her elegant and polished style during the three-day visit.

Peng was seen in public in five different outfits. All the designs paid homage to her Chinese heritage with a contemporary twist, according to experts.

“I would give her 100 marks for all her outfits. Her dresses are not very traditional, yet they are designs that have evolved from the original cheongsam and represent her love of Chinese tradition,” Hong Kong-based designer Kay Li said.

Both Li and Tan said the outfit worn by Peng during a star-studded gala on Friday night was their favourite.

The soprano wore a cranberry-coloured jacket with an oriental stand collar over a pastel pink, flared A-line dress.

“Most of her other attire is very formal, elegant and graceful, but this is my favourite because I think it reflects her true style and is most flattering for her body shape. It just makes her look very happy and approachable,” Li said.

“[It] lends a feminine and youthful image,” Tan said. “All of her looks are classic and subtle, but she makes a lot of little modern tweaks in the accessories and details, while retaining a style that possesses strong Chinese influence.”