Qing dynasty style wedding dress

Chinese clothing includes the traditional hanfu and garments of ethnic minorities, as well as modern variations of indigenous Chinese dresses. Chinese clothing has been shaped through its dynastic traditions, as well as through foreign influences.[1] Chinese clothing showcases the traditional fashion sensibilities of Chinese culture traditions and forms one of the major cultural facets of Chinese civilization.[2]

Imperial China

See also: Hanfu

Robe of the Qianlong Emperor with the Chinese dragon, the hallmark of the emperor of China and imperial families

Traditional Han clothing has a recorded history of more than three millennia until the end of the Ming dynasty.[2] 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 with leather on the inside. Women would wear silk shoes, often with holes in the top for their feet to fit in, with certain wealthy women practicing foot binding wearing coated lotus shoes as a status symbol until in the early 20th century.

Civil and military officials

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 badge. Another way to show social standing and civil rank was 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 dynasty official headwear. In the Qing dynasty different patterns of robes represented different ranks.

The Night Revels of Han Xizai, originally painted by Gu Hongzhong, depicting life in the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period at the end of this period. It is believed that people burned their clothing as a form of ceremony.

Qing dynasty (1644–1912)

See also: Cheongsam and changshan

called Shoe of Queen Marysieńka in the District Museum in Tarnów is an example of late 17th-century Qing dynasty shoemaking.[3] The damask and satin body was mounted on cardboard sole.[3]

The rise of the Manchu Qing dynasty in many ways represented a new era in Chinese clothing, with certain styles required to be worn by all noblemen and officials. Eventually, these styles also became widespread among the commoners.[4] Manchu official headwear differed from the Ming version, but the Qing continued to use the Mandarin square.

Republican era

Students at Shantung Christian University, 1941

The abolition of imperial China in 1912 had an immediate effect on dress and customs. The largely Han Chinese population immediately cut off their queues they had been 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

Early in the People's Republic, Mao Zedong inspired 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, clothing viewed as backwards and unmodern by both the Chinese as well as Westerners, was 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.[5] 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.[5] A number of these items were thrown into the streets to embarrass the citizens.[6]

Modern fashion

Further information: Impact of fast fashion in China

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.[7][8] Other Chinese luxury brands include NE Tiger,[9] Guo Pei,[10] and Laurence Xu.[11]

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.[12][13][14]

In recent years, renewed interest in traditional Chinese culture has led to a movement in China advocating for the revival of hanfu.[15][16][17] As an increasing number of Chinese people like and attach importance to hanfu, hanfu no longer only appears in Chinese drama as in the past.


See also


  1. ^ Yang, Shaorong (2004). Chinese Clothing: Costumes, Adornments and Culture (Arts of China). Long River Press (published April 1, 2004). p. 3. ISBN 978-1592650194.
  2. ^ a b Brown, John (2006). China, Japan, Korea: Culture and Customs. Createspace Independent Publishing (published September 7, 2006). p. 79. ISBN 978-1419648939.
  3. ^ a b Łukasz Sęk. "Chiński bucik królowej Marysieńki Sobieskiej" (in Polish). it.tarnow.pl. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
  4. ^ Han and Manchus: Ethnic Relations and Political Power in Late Qing and Early Republican China, 1861–1928 by Edward Rhoads, p. 61
  5. ^ a b Law, Kam-yee. [2003] (2003). The Chinese Cultural Revolution Reconsidered: beyond purge and Holocaust. ISBN 0-333-73835-7
  6. ^ Wen, Chihua. Madsen, Richard P. [1995] (1995). The Red Mirror: Children of China's Cultural Revolution. Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-2488-2
  7. ^ Broun, Samantha (6 April 2006). "Designing a global brand". CNN World. Archived from the original on 26 October 2012. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
  8. ^ Chevalier, Michel (2012). Luxury Brand Management. Singapore: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-1-118-17176-9.
  9. ^ 1 Archived 2014-01-10 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ 1.
  11. ^ "China's Hainan Airlines: Coolest cabin crew uniforms ever?". CNN World. 14 July 2017. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  12. ^ "G.O.D. and Kukri Design Collaborate for the Rugby Sevens". Hong Kong Tatler. 16 March 2012. Archived from the original on 15 August 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
  13. ^ "G.O.D. x Kukri". G.O.D. official website. Archived from the original on 15 May 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
  14. ^ "Kukri and G.O.D. collaborate on HK7s Range!". Kukri Sports. Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
  15. ^ Bullock, Olivia (November 13, 2014). "Hanfu Movement Brings Back Traditional Fashion". The World of Chinese. Retrieved July 30, 2016.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Zhou, Dongxu (June 18, 2015). "China Prepares 'Traditional Culture' Textbooks for Its Officials". Retrieved July 30, 2016 – via Caixin.

Further reading