We see the back of a granny standing (arms akimbo) in a pink floral top and clashing,patterned pants.
©F.L. Blumberg 2024

Po Po Couture


One of the delightful sights on the streets of Hong Kong is a rather improbable one: the outfits that many elderly women wear. There is a certain style to them: cheerful, practical, adorable, and insouciant. Originally, what caught my eye were the brightly coloured, boldly patterned shirts with a sheen to them. Though often matched with a basic black pant, on occasion they are paired with light and baggy bottoms made from the same fabric. For a more unconventional look, sometimes a clashing pattern is blithely chosen. 

Some of the ensembles are vivid, others more muted, but all who don this style seem to say, ‘It has taken a lot to get through life; I have done my part. Now I am going to let this blouse do a lot of the work. Let it give off bright and lively vibes to everyone I meet and even lift my own mood a bit. Now I wear my hair short. I will get the groceries for dinner at the wet market, briefly greet the friends and neighbours I pass, enjoy priority seating on the bus or—who knows?—maybe cut a queue to board the MTR and elbow my way with impunity to the best available seat. I will do what I do how I do it.’

These po pos (po po, or 婆婆, is the Cantonese word for a grandmother, old woman, or mother-in-law) are going to spiff up their appearance without too much fuss. But beyond the cute figure they cut is the statement that they seem to make: their apparel is not only prêt-à-porter but prêt-à-représenter: able to portray a persona both feminine and tough, with a touch of the devil-may-care. Forget The North Face or Under Armour; this is the real performance fabric. Keeping it spirited yet simple, relying on the power of a print: I call this kind of fashion po po couture.