During this period between the two semesters, whenever the air, the weather, and my meeting schedule align to allow it, I’ve been doing the final fieldwork for the app I’ve been working on. The bus line the app is based on (the 146) ends at Tiger Hill, and one of my recent trips was out there. Tiger Hill is located a couple miles to the northwest of the old city of Suzhou, and has been part of the city and its development for over a thousand years at least.
Tiger Hill itself is a major, and very old, tourist site, with a history going back, legend has it, to the Wu dynasty (c.496 BC). It is certainly interesting, but with my cultural landscapes focus on ordinary places, it is other spaces near it that I find most intriguing.
Tiger Hill Road, which leads north to Tiger Hill, is the center of the largest wedding dress market in China, with over 1000 stores. Bigger, fancier stores are along Tiger Hill avenue itself, although they share the sidewalk with not only parking, but street vendors selling food as well as dresses, shoes, tiaras, and other wedding-related paraphernalia.
The side streets hold smaller shops, with less expensive dresses.
The classic western-style white fluffy dress is the most common, not just because it is popular in China (which it very much is) but also because these shops make dresses for shops all over the world.
Red is the second most popular. This is the traditional color for Chinese weddings, and in a typical Chinese wedding and the associated banquets, a Chinese bride will likely wear at least one white and one red dress.
Of course, brides are not the only one in the wedding party, so there are also dresses for flower girls and a whole rainbow of bridesmaid dresses.
And not every member of the party wears dresses. Suits for the groom, often quite flashy, are available in abundance.
Not all of these clothes are meant to be worn at the wedding per se. Some are for picking up the bride, or traveling clothes to leave in.
And many are for wedding pictures, which are a major industry in China, and one we get to see in every public park and along Pingjiang Lu and Shantang Street (the wedding photographers are centered on one main street downtown; I plan to visit and post about it at some point). Wedding albums often contain a large number of fantasy pictures with a huge number of different costumes, many of them provided by the photographers. Clearly these costumes come from Tiger Hill.
It almost makes me with I had a prom I needed a dress for.