Thursday, November 10, 2005

Chinese Laundries Not Good Enough?

Just a short post today, about the sartorial cleaning habits of the first British colonials on the China Coast. Many of the grandees of the East India Company, and some of the rich opium taipans, were very particular about their clothes, as you will see from the following quote from Barbara Sue-White and her book Indians in Hong Kong: Turbans and Traders:
A minor but appreciated connection with India in those days was laundry, presumably before Chinese laundries had become popular. Members of the East India Company posted to Macau and Hong Kong routinely sent their laundry off on the four-month round trip to Calcutta to be impeccably cleaned and pressed.
The above picture, actually of a Chinese laundry in San Francisco in 1881, does show what was by that time a common occupation for Chinese labourers on both sides of the Pacific. But the ruffs and collars of the Anglo-Indian elite were quite complex in the early 19th century, and they simply wouldn't think of sending their haute couture anywhere in Asia but Calcutta !

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