Item : 2021-034.274 - Wong - Kung Lai - 1932

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Wong - Kung Lai - 1932

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  • Photograph

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  • Statements of responsibility: Bill Wong family
  • Source of title proper: Title taken from collector/curator's digital file title.

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AM1688-S1-F5-: 2021-034.274

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1 photograph : raster image (image/tiff) ; 5755x4607 pixels (76 MiB)

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Collector/curator's description reads: “1932, Vancouver (23 W Pender). Photo of the Modernize Tailor family. L to R: Mother Man Ming (nee Chu); Anna (on lap); Jack; Father Kung Lai Wong; Helen; Bill; Unknown relative; Allan. Kung Lai Wong arrived in Vancouver from southern China in 1911 at the age of 20, and had to pay a $500 head tax. He worked for a time as a houseboy then apprenticed himself to an English tailor to learn a trade and open his own shop. For his staff, Kung Lai imported "paper relatives" from China, bachelor tailors who would never have a chance to marry. His two eldest boys, Bill and Jack, born a year apart, did everything together. As toddlers, they were allowed to play with scraps of wool and spools of thread at the tailor shop. Later, they would go help out in the shop after attending English school, followed by Chinese school. The 1950s, when the brothers took over Modernize, were prosperous years, with some 20 tailor shops operating in Chinatown. The so-called zoot suit was introduced by jazz musicians in the U.S. in the 1940s and became wildly popular with young men in Vancouver a few years later. This louche style called for wide-legged, high-waisted trousers pegged at the ankles and long jackets with wide lapels and exaggerated shoulders. Modernize produced scores of such suits. They also made costumes for Vancouver's Theatre Under the Stars musical productions and for performances at the historic town of Barkerville in the B.C. interior. The popularity of the suit began to wane in the 1960s, under the influence of such blue-jean wearing film stars as Marlon Brando. A trend toward informality in office wear followed with the introduction of "casual Fridays." Mass manufacturing of clothing in Asia meant a flood of cheap off-the-rack clothing that had not previously existed.”

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Original print remains with the organization or family that contributed the photograph.

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Use is restricted to research, private study and educational purposes based on donor agreement. Reproduction for exhibition, publication or commercial use requires permission from the family or organization that donated the photograph. Please see archivist for details.

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