China media eagerly awaits first ladies’ "fashion face-off" – BBC News

Peng Liyuan, the wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, in SeattleImage copyright

As Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama engage in talks, China’s media are bigging up “a much-anticipated fashion face-off” between the countries’ two first ladies: Peng Liyuan and Michelle Obama.

The pair, dubbed “fashion icons” by the Chinese media, last met in March 2014 and their fashion styles have been widely compared in Chinese publications.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping and First Lady Peng Liyuan arrive in Everett, Washington as part of their US tour

As a nationally renowned former folk singer, Chinese media have often paid attention to Ms Peng’s fashion sense over the years. But given Michelle Obama’s “undeniable” sense of style, the media say what both women wear “will be closely watched”.

The two first ladies are expected to visit the National Zoo on Friday to look at the giant pandas.

‘Fashion storm’

Much was made of Michelle Obama’s sense of style during her last visit to China in March 2014. Popular news portal Sina devoted a full page to what both first ladies wore, with the headline banner: “This March, a first lady fashion storm will be blowing in. Are you ready for it?”

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US First Lady Michelle Obama (L) and Peng Liyuan in Beijing in March 2014

Many popular Chinese fashion magazines, including Self, carried images of their outfits.

The China Daily newspaper said the pair had “much in common”, were “symbols of glamour” and stood “uneclipsed by their more powerful husbands”.


As a folk singer, Peng Liyuan was famous long before her husband came to power.

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Peng Liyuan performs in the central Chinese province of Henan in 2007

The Hong Kong daily, South China Morning Post, said recently that “her fashion style has made her a global sensation” and her fan club on popular microblog Sina Weibo – which has over a million followers – keeps a close eye on what she wears to diplomatic events.

When Ms Peng wore a striking red dress to China’s 70th World War Two anniversary parade this September, a “political clothing expert” in the Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao said her decision to wear a “classic Western-style dress” rather than a traditional cheongsam “sent a signal – that China is an international community not restricted to Chinese tradition”.

And when she visited Seattle, thousands of netizens commented on her outfit. “Mother Peng’s style has become the benchmark” said one user, generating more than 200 likes. Others said she looked like a “goddess” and her clothes were “really beautiful”.

‘Sartorial rematch’

As Michelle Obama is already recognised in the US for her fashion sense, China’s media have started to weigh in on who will win in the fashion stakes.

Fashion magazines are eager for a sartorial rematch between the two.

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Chinese website recently compared Peng Liyuan (Top R) with Michelle Obama, Jennifer Lawrence and Beyonce

The South China Morning Post has described their forthcoming meeting as a “much-anticipated fashion face-off”, triggering a huge online response.

Popular Chinese website Tencent News describes Ms Peng’s fashion sense as “elegant and refined” while Ms Obama’s style is “undeniable”, noting that she has “repeatedly been the face of American fashion magazine covers”. It also highlights the fact that both women made the prestigious Vanity Fair international best dressed list in 2013.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.


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