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Fashion and Beauty in the Time of Asia$
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S. Heijin Lee, Christina H. Moon, and Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781479892150

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479892150.001.0001

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White Like Koreans

White Like Koreans

The Skin of the New Vietnam

(p.21) 1 White Like Koreans
Fashion and Beauty in the Time of Asia

Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu

NYU Press

Based on interviews and observations of cosmetics retailers and shoppers at several malls in Ho Chi Minh City, this chapter considers how cosmetics consumption inaugurated a new form of what scholar Jonathan Reinarz termed “skinliteracy” in Vietnam. Though purchases of prestige cosmetics far outpace those of luxury clothing, sales are not easy to come by. Retailers instruct customers to consider a product’s national origins—French, Scottish, Japanese, Korean, and American products were seen as quite distinct—to ensure “suitability” (hop) with their own “Vietnamese” skin. As such, this chapterargues that the language of “land” and “landscape” that dominates discussions of cosmetics works to narrate women’s consumption as a reflection of their nation’s standing, and to foster a feeling and imagination about which nations might serve as “suitable” models and allies. In this sense, cosmetics consumption becomes a way women narrate their experiences of development and their feelings about the modernity enveloping them.

Keywords:   cosmetics, modernity, development, land, landscape, suitability, skin, skinliteracy, Vietnam

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