Shanghai Escape Delayed By My New Little Black Dress

Shanghai Escape Delayed By My New Little Black Dress

Every fashionista owns, wears and loves her little black dress… These timeless little black dresses have been worn, photographed, written about and reinvented time after time….

Myself? I do own a few of them, just like you I guess, but there is a particular one which brings more memories to me than the others….

Back in the 90s, a young me, in fact, a very young me ( legal age though ) got married in Sydney, to a Chinese man whose family owned and ran a building foundation company in the largest city of China – Shanghai.
Even though we were both Chinese, however, China and Taiwan were very different back then. When we decided to move back to Shanghai soon after we tied the knot, I knew it’d be a great challenge for me.
At that time, just before China opened up to the material world again, everything was still quite closed and communist….
For a young woman like myself, who was born and grew up in Taiwan and had experienced a life in the Western world – Australia… I was in a total ‘culture shock’ when I first landed my feet back in China, with my then husband.
And I meant it literally, because the minute I landed at Guangzhou BaiYun International Airport, at the customs checking point, the customs officer took my Vogue magazine away…. ( Because some images inside were not ‘appropriate’! )

This sounded like a disaster in the making already, and I’m not going to sugar coat it… It was very difficult for me, at that age, coping with a new family I didn’t quite know, plus a new environment which – let me put it this way – the world I only learnt about from Chiang Kai-Shek’s KMT government in Taiwan’s anti communism campaign… ( Although today when I look back, I do feel fortunate that I had a chance to witness China at the beginning of a dramatic change in its modern history. )
To cut a long story short, I found myself in a mess… Such a mess, which my young, naïve and powerless self did not know how to deal with.
Five months’ trying, fighting and failing… Divorce soon came to my mind, and so I was planning an escape to separate from ‘the whole thing’….

My master plan to escape, was to disappear….
Quietly moving into a room in a small unit owned by a lady friend, also in Shanghai. During this period of time I had contacted some of my relatives to help me.
The first family member who offered to help, was my uncle from my mother’s side.
Uncle John sent me one hundred US dollars from Taiwan as a test to see if I could receive it safely.
And I did.
Suddenly I received HOPE again and the first thing I did? You bet! I rushed to Shanghai’s modernist shopping district to try on new clothes!!

The moment I put on an ELLE ( Paris ) little black dress and saw it on me in the change room’s mirror… ‘WOW!’ I saw freedom itself!!
Knowing freedom was on its way, I felt empowered again.
That ELLE dress was the most magical little black dress I have ever purchased in my life!!!
Through it, I saw a new life ahead; through it, I saw the possibility to pick up a single life again; through it, I reconnected with my sexiness and independence….

By the end of my 4th week’s disappearance, my then husband’s family finally reported to Shanghai Gong-An ( police station ), so they started searching for me….
Eventually, I did move back home.
A very bitter agreement of our separation soon followed.
During this period of time, I was waiting for my family to send me the travel fund for my ‘Shanghai escape’… or, should I say, ‘marriage escape’?!
I sold an 18K heart shape gold pendant – a gift from my then mother in law – to pay for a photographer from Shanghai’s famous Wang-Kai Photography Studio to photograph my ‘soon to say good-bye’ home – an old style penthouse in Xuhui, in the French concession in Shanghai.
I had lovingly decorated the inside of this Shanghainese/French penthouse. As I couldn’t take my beloved penthouse away, I could ‘at least take the photos of it with me’. I thought.

When I finally received my ticket fund, I was so tempted to arrange a location shoot with my new little black dress. My endless location scoutings had delayed my escape plan….
In the end I did not have enough spare money left after I purchased my one way ticket to freedom. So I was forced to give up on doing another photo shoot – the one with my little black dress.
Flying back to my homeland Taiwan, our separation officially started.

‘What happened to that little black dress?’ You might wonder.
Well, due to missing out on a ‘Good-bye Shanghai’ shoot, I went ahead to organise a ‘Hello freedom’ shoot at the beach of Tao Yuan county, Taiwan.
That’s this above photo you are viewing right now… My little black dress – a symbol of freedom, empowering and courage….
My long hair was wind swept by the strong sea breeze, clearly, I was enjoying and embracing the fresh air of freedom….

Photography by : Tsong-Chii, Lynn


    • Thank you Lingy! I remember you once suggested me to write an article about how to wear a black dress… Here it is!! Well, I’m glad that you like it and don’t you think the beach in Tao-Yuan, Taiwan looks amazing in this shot?! 🙂

  1. Yes Lingy I do remember that image you sent me…
    She wore not only a pair of platform sports shoes, plus a pair of coloured socks, that’s enough an odd look/ensemble to her little black dress… a total disaster allow me saying it…. What’s wrong with the look was, the platform sporty shoes looked so large and heavy, on top of that adding socks on too!! She looked like she was getting ready for mountain climing BUT her little black dress wanted to go clubing! ! !

    Thank you for bringing this up Lingy… As we know, a pair of shoes can actually make the look! 🙂 (… or break the look…)

  2. Hi Vivienne, what an amazing story!!! I don’t think I have ever read a fashion story like it! Also, I love this picture, the weathered wood and barbed wire make it look a little like you are on the edge of a war zone; in many ways I suppose you were. Thank you for sharing your unique perspective on fashion and your fashion-life!

    • Thank you Kent! I remember I did ask your opinion regarding writing this article, which, at that time I thought I might reveal too much of myself, and it could be a risk to take… Well, you thought otherwise and encouraged me to go for it!
      It turned out to be one of my most popular blog posts so far!!! Thank YOU!!! 🙂

      I guess that what I was trying to ‘achieve’ here, was to share a ‘love story’ between a lost young woman and a little black dress she desired… As dramatic as it might sound, the story here was all REAL!!! It was indeed, a very personal experience and a unique journey…

      As I said, the ‘little black dress’ wasn’t new, but I wanted to have a fresh take on it – in my most personal way! X X

  3. I have this beautiful black strapless dress that glitters. Black is such a classic you can do so much with. I team my dress up with calf length boots and black jacket. May wear this outfit for my 8th Wedding anniversary in February…”Can you imagine that?”

  4. Ok an additional comment …..”Wow!” I did not know you had been married. My thoughts are his loss, letting go such a beautiful women, mind, heart and spirit! And yeah the black dress photo shoot, escape thing…Just brillant!!! “Go Women!”

    • Your ‘black strapless dress that glitters’ sounds wonderful Ann-maree. I like the way you style it too! I’m sure that it’d be a perfect ‘date dress’ on your Wedding anniversary! Congratulations! ! 🙂
      Well, I was way too young to get married ( I think ), all I can say today is, the married life was not for me back then. People do make mistakes…
      Oh, by the way, this black dress I’ve owned for years is still with me, last time I wore it was 8 days ago! What a great investment! 😉

  5. OMG! I think this black dress is the one you wore inside during our last ‘date’??? It still look so chic and fits you so well. I just can’t image it indeed has such a long history and has been related to a moving story! Anyway, Vivian, be yourself, the one who is brave, independent and beautiful.
    If ever you can’t, just think about the black dress and how much coverage and confidence you can have when you wear it!BTW, try the long hair style when you are tired of your current hair style. Love it!!!

    • Oh YES April, it was indeed, THAT black dress when we had a coffee/chat at the cafe in QVB recently!!
      I’m so glad that you noticed it! Now you’ve heard the whole story that I’m sure when you see me wearing it again; you’d ‘see’ it differently! 😉
      Thank you for your compliments and encouragement April. X X X X

  6. A particular black dress with such memories should be timeless. I always see freedom and independence in you, and always respect you. Love you!

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