Let’s explore the historical trends of Chinese clothing!
Clothes are an indispensable part of human history. We can see the cultural and historical nation’s evolution from its traditional clothing. Plenty of objects dating back as early as to the Shang period in ancient China (1600 B.C.) provide very detailed pictographic information about the clothing. Words like “shoes”, “yellow dresses”, “belts”, “robes” can be read on oracle bones. Jade pendants, rings, earrings, necklaces, hairpins, combs, as well as silk, linen and copper ornaments were also unearthed. These exquisite ornaments and clothing were worn and owned by the nobles.
The overall style of Han costumes has remained light and simple for thousands of years. It puts the unity of Nature and Man at the centre of its values. The main feature of the costume, which has soft and smooth lines, is a long-sleeved wide robe with a belt.
The robe fully embodies the Han nationality’s character of softness, tranquillity, subtle elegance, and detachment.
In recent years, the popularity of Han’s traditional clothing has been constantly increasing, in particular among young people. They love wearing it at weddings and other traditional events. Or for photo sessions at tourist attractions. It is common to see women in beautiful Han clothing posing at popular scenic spots, such as the Forbidden City or the Summer Palace in Beijing.
Qipao 旗袍 (Qípáo)
The “Qipao” is the most representative traditional clothing for Chinese women. Among all the Chinese national costumes, the “qipao” has always held a special place, because of its unique charm. It has even become part of women’s daily wear, and a symbol of Chinese national fashion. Many public figures like to wear a “qipao” on major occasions, and this keeps boosting its popularity.
Chinese minorities ethnic clothing
(Zhōngguó shào shù mínzú fúzhuāng)
Chinese ethnic costumes are worn by members of ethnic minorities in China, in daily life and at festivals and ceremonies.
Due to the geographical environment, climate, customs, economy, culture and other reasons, the clothing of the 55 official ethnic minorities have evolved in very different directions. All of them are colourful and splendid and reflect the characteristics and history of the people who wear them.
Chinese wedding dress culture
(Zhōngguó de hūnlǐ fúzhuāng wénhuà)
Usually, in the West, people consider a wedding dress must be white. Brides wear a single white dress during the whole wedding ceremony and party.
In China, brides change their outfits. They like posing in a white dress for the wedding pictures and leaving the wedding banquet in the same white dress. However, for the wishes and the toasts, the wedding clothing should be red. Red is the colour of joy, happiness, auspiciousness and prosperity.
Chinese school uniform
(Zhōngguó de xiàofú)
For decades, students have been required to wear the same clothes at school. Schools require students to wear a uniform so that those from poorer backgrounds wouldn’t feel inferior and expose their families’ financial difficulties.
Elementary, junior and high schools basically use sports outfits as school uniforms, blue, black and red being the dominant colours. Female and male students’ clothing are basically identical. Uniforms are cheap and only two sets are used all around the year: one is worn during the winter, spring and autumn. The other one is during the summer.
Let’s now see the evolution of school uniforms in China!
From the 1911 Revolution to the 1920s: school uniforms appear for the first time
At that time, the girls’ school uniforms were the most distinctive, combining Chinese and Western styles with a Chinese top, a Western pleated skirt, plus a pair of black oxford-soled shoes and white stockings, also known as the “May Fourth Youth Suit-dress”.
The Thirties: Chinese “qipao” dresses are worn on campuses
In 1949, the People’s Republic of China was founded. The clothes they wore followed this huge historical change. People all over the country started to wear blue and grey uniforms, as well as Lenin coats and cotton coats.
The Young Pioneers’ uniform became the preferred clothing for most school students. In that generation, because it’s plain, clean and pure, the Young Pioneers’ uniform symbolized the dream of the 1980s, a new beginning. These school uniforms were mainly blue and white with a bright red scarf.