Chinese clothing

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Chinese clothing is ancient and modern. Chinese clothing has varied by region and time, and is recorded by the artifacts and arts of Chinese culture.

Imperial China[edit]

Main article: Han Chinese clothing

Traditional Chinese clothing is broadly referred to as hanfu with many variations such as traditional Chinese academic dress. Depending on one's status in society, each social class had a different sense of fashion. Most Chinese men wore Chinese black cotton shoes, but wealthy higher class people would wear tough black leather shoes for formal occasions. Very rich and wealthy men would wear very bright, beautiful silk shoes sometimes having leather on the inside. Women would wear silk shoes, with certain wealthy women practicing bound feet wearing coated Lotus shoes as a status symbol until in the early 20th century. Men's shoes were usually less elaborate than women's.

Civil and military officials[edit]

Chinese civil or military officials used a variety of codes to show their rank and position. The most recognized is the Mandarin square or rank bad In. Another code was also the use of colorful hat knobs fixed on the top of their hats. The specific hat knob on one's hat determined one's rank. As there were twelve types of hat knobs representing the nine distinctive ranks of the civil or military position. Variations existed for Ming official headwear. In the Qing Dynasty different patterns of robes represented different ranks.

The Night Revels of Han Xizai painting, originally by Gu Hongzhong, depicting life in the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period
Robe of Qianlong Emperor with the Chinese dragon, hallmark of the Emperor of China and imperial families

Qing Dynasty (1644–1911)[edit]

See also: Cheongsam and changshan

The rise of the Manchu Qing Dynasty in many ways represented a new clothing styles were required to be worn by all noblemen and officials. Eventually, this style became widespread among the commoners.[1]

A new style of dress, called tangzhuang, included the changshan worn by men and the qipao worn by women. Manchu official headwear differed from the Ming version, but the Qing continued to use the Mandarin square. It was around this time that foot binding became more popular.

The so-called Shoe of Queen Marysieńka in the District Museum in Tarnów is an example of late 17th-century Qing Dynasty shoemaking.[2] The damask and satin body was mounted on cardboard sole.[2]

Republican era[edit]

Two women wearing cheongsams (qipao) in a 1930s Shanghai advertisement for "Victoria Soap".

The abolition of imperial China in 1912 had an immediate effect on dress and customs. The largely Han Chinese population immediately cut off their queue as they were forced to grow in submission to the overthrown Qing Dynasty. Sun Yat-sen popularised a new style of men's wear, featuring jacket and trousers instead of the robes worn previously. Adapted from Japanese student wear, this style of dress became known as the Zhongshan suit (Zhongshan being one of Sun Yat-sen's given names in Chinese).

For women, a transformation of the traditional qipao resulted in a slender form-fitting dress with a high cut. This new "cheongsam" contrasted sharply with the traditional qipao but has largely replaced it in modern fashion. In the early republican period, the traditional dudou underbodice was largely abandoned in favor of western-style corsets and bras.

Early People's Republic[edit]

Early in the People's Republic, Mao Zedong would inspire Chinese fashion with his own variant of the Zhongshan suit, which would be known to the west as Mao suit. Meanwhile, Sun Yat-sen's widow, Soong Ching-ling, popularized the cheongsam as the standard female dress. At the same time, old practices such as footbinding, which had been viewed as backwards and unmodern by both the Chinese as well as Westerners, were forbidden.

Around the Destruction of the "Four Olds" period in 1964, almost anything seen as part of Traditional Chinese culture would lead to problems with the Communist Red Guards. Items that attracted dangerous attention if caught in the public included jeans, high heels, Western-style coats, ties, jewelry, cheongsams, and long hair.[3] These items were regarded as symbols of bourgeois lifestyle, which represented wealth. Citizens had to avoid them or suffer serious consequences such as torture or beatings by the guards.[3] A number of these items were thrown into the streets to embarrass the citizens.[4]

Modern fashion[edit]

Hong Kong clothing brand Shanghai Tang's design concept is inspired by historical Chinese clothing. It set out to rejuvenate Chinese fashion of the 1920s and 30s, in bright colors and with a modern twist.[5][6] Other Chinese luxury brands include NE Tiger,[7] Guo Pei,[8] and Laurence Xu.

In the year 2000, dudou-inspired blouses appeared in the summer collections of Versace and Miu Miu, leading to its adoption within China as a revealing form of outerwear.

For the 2012 Hong Kong Sevens tournament, sportswear brand Kukri Sports teamed up with Hong Kong lifestyle retail store G.O.D. to produce merchandising, which included traditional Chinese jackets and Cheongsam-inspired ladies polo shirts.[9][10][11]

In recent years, renewed interest in traditional Chinese culture has led to a movement in China advocating for the revival of hanfu and the return of several elements of pre-Qing Chinese culture.[12][13][14]

Image gallery[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Manchus and Han: Ethnic Relations and Political Power in Late Qing and Early Republican China, 1861-1928 by Edward Rhoads, pg. 61
  2. ^ a b Łukasz Sęk. "Chiński bucik królowej Marysieńki Sobieskiej". (in Polish). Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Law, Kam-yee. [2003] (2003). The Chinese Cultural Revolution Reconsidered: beyond purge and Holocaust. ISBN 0-333-73835-7
  4. ^ Wen, Chihua. Madsen, Richard P. [1995] (1995). The Red Mirror: Children of China's Cultural Revolution. Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-2488-2
  5. ^ Broun, Samantha (6 April 2006). "Designing a global brand". CNN World. Retrieved 2 June 2012. 
  6. ^ Chevalier, Michel (2012). Luxury Brand Management. Singapore: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-1-118-17176-9. 
  7. ^ 1.
  8. ^ 1.
  9. ^ "G.O.D. and Kukri Design Collaborate for the Rugby Sevens". Hong Kong Tatler. 16 March 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2012. 
  10. ^ "G.O.D. x Kukri". G.O.D. official website. Retrieved 19 November 2012. 
  11. ^ "Kukri and G.O.D. collaborate on HK7s Range!". Kukri Sports. Retrieved 19 November 2012. 
  12. ^ Bullock, Olivia (November 13, 2014). "Hanfu Movement Brings Back Traditional Fashion". The World of Chinese. Retrieved July 30, 2016. 
  13. ^ Wee, Teo Cheng (November 20, 2015). "Stepping back in time at China's schools for traditional culture and Confucianism". Retrieved July 30, 2016 – via The Straits Times. 
  14. ^ Zhou, Dongxu (June 18, 2015). "China Prepares 'Traditional Culture' Textbooks for Its Officials". Retrieved July 30, 2016 – via Caixin. 

Further reading[edit]

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