Creating the Good: The authors of “China town Pretty” document the outfits and stories of fashionable AAPI seniors

The authors and friends developed the idea for the project in San Francisco more than 10 years ago.

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Sponsored by AARP Illinois.

When instances of violence against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) older adults spiked earlier this year, one Instagram account featuring joyful photos of stylish seniors from Chinatowns across the country became a viral sensation, shared widely on social media in support of the AAPI community.

The curators of the @chinatownpretty account and authors of the corresponding book “Chinatown Pretty: Fashion and Wisdom from Chinatown’s Most Stylish Seniors,” photographer Andria Lo and writer Valerie Luu, were surprised by the support for their project, but understood that for many, it offered a counterpoint to the hate people were seeing on the news.

“A lot of people described the project as a ‘beacon’ for them during this really dark time,” said Lo. “We were glad to offer these personal stories that provide a real glimpse into the lives of AAPI older adults, who are our neighbors in all of our communities. Showing the joy of these seniors, not just through their outfits, but through their expressions and personalities that come through in the photos, was one of our main goals for the project.”

The authors and friends developed the idea for the project in San Francisco more than 10 years ago.

“We would go on dim sum dates in San Francisco’s Chinatown and when we were there, we would notice a very distinct style — layers of pat-terns, colors and florals, wide hats and big jackets – and so we wanted to know ‘how did they compose these out fits, and more importantly, where did they get their shoes?’” says Luu.

When they visited Chicago’s Chinatown, one of the oldest and fastest growing in the country, Lo and Luu met one of their most memorable subjects, a woman whose story they titled “Windy City Wear.”

Thinking that their chances of running into someone to photograph on this cold and rainy morning in Chicago were dreadfully low, Luu and Lo had to do a double take when they passed Mrs. Mei, standing in a doorway with her husband and taking shelter from the rain while the pair waited for the bus.

Wearing a teal, flor al print jacket, purple polyester shirt and yellow ‘70s striped ringer tee, Mrs. Mei was a ray of sunshine on this gloomy day. Her vibrant out fit was topped off with a Burberry-print bucket hat, complete with a chin strap that Lo and Luu found to be a common and necessary accessory in the “Windy City.”

And as if Mrs. Mei’s ensemble couldn’t get any better, the authors asked to see her socks, which “to our delight were covered in puppy dogs and soccer balls.”

“Chinatown Pretty” is full of interesting stories like Mrs. Mei’s, all of which Lo and Luu hope will inspire people to get to know their neighbors.

“Through celebrating all of these seniors in the book, we hope that people are inspired to ask their grandmas and grandpas to share their own stories, and that they carry this sentiment when interacting with their neighbors. Everyone has a story to tell and we hope that people are encouraged to have these types of conversations more frequently in their lives every day,” says Lo.

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