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1930s Shanghai

September 2, 2009

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Shanghai in the 1930s has always seemed to be a impossibly romantic place. By then, it was the fifth largest city in the world, filled with the glorious cultural mixture from its colonial past. Its bustling ports and the opium trade made it the centre for business in Asia. Foreigners flocked to the city, giving it a foreign population of nearly 70,000 people. It became known as “The Paris of the Orient.”

Since the time, it’s served as an inspiration for an endless variety of things, with its unique mix of cultural influences, and the romantic mixture of seedy gangsters, fabulous wealth, and political scheming. Some of my favourite films are set there (go out and see Lust, Caution right now if you haven’t… though be aware that’s it’s very explicit in parts.) I’ve also always been so inspired by the fashion I see from pictures there. The mixture of traditional Chinese elements with Western influences produces some truly beautiful results.

All this is to say that I was dreamily searching around the web today for pictures of Shanghai in the 1930s, when I came across this photoset on Flickr. It’s from Natalie Zee Drieu, who really does have one of the most glamourous grandmothers of all time. These photos are treasures, showing what I at least envision as to be the mood of the time. I feel rather odd putting up pictures of someone else’s grandmother, but hopefully if she sees it she’ll understand that it’s done with nothing but respect and amazement for the beauty of the pictures. I wish I could know more about this woman… what interesting stories she must have from this time!

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Natalie Zee Drieu also runs Coquette, which is a marvellous fashion blog.

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