What comes into your mind when you think of Chinese traditional clothing and Chinese Traditional dresses with modern elements?
In modern times, Han clothing, Cheongsam (Qipao), and Tang suit are the 3 most well-known clothing in Chinese history.
1. Han Clothing (Chinese Traditional Dresses)
The Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE) was China’s second imperial dynasty and was an age of economic prosperity. It is regarded as one of the most powerful and influential dynasties in Chinese dress history.
There were two main types of robes: the curved hem robe (曲裾袍 qūjūpáo) and the straight hem robe (直裾袍 zhíjūpáo). Women also had the additional option of wearing a 襦裙 (rúqún) – a cross-collar wrap shirt paired with a long skirt.
People use various ornaments to decorate their Hanfu, worn on the belt or sash. The ornaments are called pei (配, which means match or decorate). The more decorations they had, the higher social status they had. Men wore hats, and women wore headpieces to go with their Hanfu.
You can see the changes in culture and clothing styles between Han Dynasty and Ming Dynasty below.
In modern China, Han clothing is getting more and more popular nowadays as the young generation honors their heritage for important occasions.
2. Cheongsam/ Qipao Dresses
In the 17th century, the nomadic Manchu people overthrew China’s Ming dynasty and established in its place the Qing dynasty (1636-1912 CE).
When most people think of Chinese traditional clothing for women, they usually think of the qipao (旗袍), also known as the cheongsam. The qipao has its origins in the Qing dynasty and was the dress of the Manchu women. However, the qipao didn’t really become popular in Hong Kong and Shanghai until the 1920s, after the fall of the Qing dynasty.
Shanghai-style cheongsams are more commercial and forward-looking. More Western elements are used in the designs and colors of Shanghai-style cheongsams.
Hong Kong-style cheongsams were influenced greatly by European fashions. The sleeves of Hong Kong-style cheongsams are shorter than the Beijing and Shanghai styles’. The decorations are simpler too.
3. Tang Suit
The Tang suit often refers to a type of Chinese jacket rather than the clothing of the Tang Dynasty (618–907). The origin of the Tang suit actually only dates back to the Qing Dynasty era (1644–1911). It was developed from a type of the era’s Manchurian clothing — the Magua (马褂, ‘horse gown’).
This name came from the overseas Chinese. As the Tang Empire was famous for being prosperous and powerful in the world, foreigners called the overseas Chinese people “the Tang people” and the clothes they wore were called “Tang suits” (which has been translated as Tangzhuang 唐装).
Traditional Tang suits, based on the magua of the Manchu ethnicity, usually have Chinese characters on them to express good luck or best wishes. The most popular characters include fu (福, ‘happiness and good luck’) and shou (寿, ‘longevity’).
For Chinese New Year outfits, Chinese people typically wear Tang Suit in red to celebrate. Chinese kids will wear Tang Suit with fur to keep warm and celebrate New Year. For the year of Rabbit 2023, Madam Shanghai is launching a Tang Suit collection for kids. The matching family Tang Suit can be ordered by email.
4. Chinese Traditions
There are really no limitations on what you cannot wear. It is a personal choice in modern times, think about the material, color, and design you want, and find a local store or online store to order. Red, silk, and classic designs are always recommended.