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Fashion: the national Chinese dress

Wednesday, July 28, 2021


Traditional Chinese clothing evolved from the long, loose, and straight-cut pants, jackets, or dresses they wore. These clothes were an expression of traditional Chinese aesthetics as they evolved over more than 3,000 years of history.

Every country has its traditional clothing, which allows people to identify a country.

The four most distinctive types in traditional Chinese clothing are the 

• Hanfu 

• Zhongshan suit (Mao suit), 

• Tang suit 

• Cheongsam (qipao)

The oldest traditional clothing in China is from the Han ethnicity. Legend has it that the silk cloth was made by Huangdi's wife, Leizu, over 4,000 years ago. It was continuously improved through several dynasties.

The Hanfu was popularized by the ruling class up until the Han Dynasty. The Han ethnic people adopted it as their national clothing. It had an enormous influence on the neighboring Asian countries of Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.

Traditional Chinese Clothing: Key Variations

In ancient China, there were no fashion shows. The result of aesthetic preferences and social customs was traditional Chinese clothing. It was different across the generations, regions, and social levels.

1. Design

Traditional Chinese clothing was usually straight-cut and loose in shape. The overall harmony of an outfit was also important.

2. Colour

In daily life, people wore light-colored clothing. The emperor and the imperial families were the only ones who wore red, bright yellow or purple. Red was the most popular color for weddings. White clothing was also worn at funerals.

True red was forbidden to concubines and could only be worn by empresses or official wives for women.

3. Gender

Clothing for women was more varied than clothing for men. Women's clothing was more diverse than men's. There were more ornaments, items, and styles in women's clothes.

4. Material

The ancient Chinese covered their bodies only with leaves at the beginning. More clothing materials became available as agriculture progressed. Later, silk, cotton, and linen were the most prominent materials.

In Mling Dynasty (1365-1644), it is was a law that no businessman can wear clothes made of silk, even if they are rich. 

5. History

Nearly every dynasty had its own distinct clothes, some of them truly exceptional. But silk was always used for royal families and the top official of the governments. 

These are the 2 basic forms of traditional Chinese clothing

In general, traditional Chinese clothing had two basic types: one-piece and top-bottom.

Two-piece Clothing

The earliest Chinese records mention top-bottom clothing, which consisted of a Yi (Yi upper) and a Chang (Chang lower) as the first form of clothing. That was officially used to wear. The legendary Huangdi (2697-2597 BC) is believed to have worn this two-piece outfit.

The Yi the upper part of the dress has many styles in a collar like open-collar, cross-collar, where the right side is wrapped over the left side. This design is genderless, anyone men or women can wear it. The Shang is any skirt worn by both genders and highlighted with a belt that hangs from one side.

One-Piece Clothing

One-piece clothing was known as Shenyi (DeepRobe) and dates back to the Zhou Dynasty (1042 – 21 BC). Although the Yi was sewn together, the Shang was cut into two pieces.

The Shenyi has been widely adopted throughout the history and evolution of China by many dynasties. It was formal wear in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) and still has a significant influence on modern one-piece clothing.

Since then, China’s fashion industry has been revolutionized, many styles and stuff have been introduced, but still, you can feel the history in those styles. 

According to Erich HatalaMatthes (a professor of cultural ethics at Wellesley College, Massachusetts), it is crucial to look at cultural appropriation from both the insider and the outsider perspective.

He adds that culture is constantly changing, evolving, and hybridizing. Identifying who is a cultural insider or outsider is "always going to be a negotiation."

further readings; 


fashion trends

KOL in China


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