Chinese clothing, including traditional Chinese clothing and modern Chinese clothing, did not evolve over time, but also varied by dynasties, regions, minorities, people’s rank and position, recorded by the artifacts and arts of Chinese culture.
Looking in retrospect at China clothing of centuries, we see an array of styles of Cheongsam, Chinese Tunic Suit, student uniform, western suits, workers' uniform, Lenin jacket, bell-bottoms, miniskirts, bikinis, professional attire, punk style and T-shirt, all witnessing the days gone by and epitomizing Chinese customs and traditions.
History of Chinese Clothing
Of all Chinese customs and traditions, the Chinese style of Clothing has a long history going back several thousand years. According to ancient record, the history of Chinese clothing culture invariably dates back to the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors.
Chinese Clothing in Shang Dynasty
In Shang Dynasty, the development of social productivity was rated and material civilization was limited. Among the visible hieroglyphic oracle, figures of silkworm, cocoon, Bo were founded as a proof of the highly developed agriculture at that time.
On the unearthed copper weapons of Shang dynasty, marks of Juan in ray pattern and pieces of silk fabric were founded as proof of the sophisticated and exquisite craft at that time.
It is revealed in Shang Dynasty Oracle that, along with the development of productivity and the social division of labor, Chinese clothing of people with different status was beginning to have a brand of time.
Chinese Clothing in Zhou Dynasty
In Zhou dynasty, when the Chinese clothing system was gradually improved, records about China clothing were fairly common. With the establishment of hierarchical system, various etiquettes came into beings, which were reflected through the different traditional clothing on different occasions including cult, funeral, wedding, enlistment and morning meeting with the emperor. Not only were these costumes accepted by emperor and common people, but also be adopted in the following two-thousand-year long feudal society.
Chinese Clothing in Warring States Period
In the Warring States Period, not all the states followed Zhou’s political system. Seven states were rising and developing independently, among which Qin, owing to its position on the west border, different from the other six. Under the influences of each feudal lord’ hobby and luxurious habit as well as the thriving of hundred schools of thought, each state showed its distinguishing features in China clothing. For example, Lord Chunshen had three thousand retinues, among who the senior ones wore shoes with beads as decoration.
Chinese Clothing in Qin & Han Dynasty
The Qin and Han dynasties witnessed the unification of territory as well as written language. Qin Shihuang, the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty, established many social systems, including one for uniforms to distinguish people's ranks and social positions. China's complete code of costume and trappings was established in the Han Dynasty. The yarn-dyeing, embroidering and metal-processing technologies developed rapidly in the period, spurring changes in Chinese clothing and adornments.
Chinese Clothing in Sui & Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty wrote the most brilliant page in the history of Chinese clothing. In Tang dynasty, which boasted a long reign and strong national power, the systems of traditional Chinese clothing, as prosperous as the society, was unable to inherit the systems of previous dynasties and impelled costume systems afterwards.
The Tang people had a frequent contact with the ethnics in northwest, thus it was common to find Tang people wearing Hu ethnic’s costume in culture relics of that time. During Sui and Tang dynasties, women’s daily wear were Chinese gown, short and lined coat and skirt. Red was the most popular color for skirt, and followed by purple, yellow and green.
The Tang women tended to make their toe caps which was the same size as men’s into a shape of phoenix. Maid of honor all wore red cotton boots; singers and dancers wore boots too. Women’s daily wear had numerous categories, such as Chinese gowns, short and lined coats, gowns, hip scarves, Brassieres, skirts, pants, knee warmers, stockings, shoes, boots, etc.
Chinese Clothing in Yuan Dynasty
During the Yuan Dynasty, the Mongolian ethnic minority, known as “the People on Horseback”, was in power. The style of Chinese clothing was mainly a combination of Mongolian and Han. Traditional Chinese clothing was luxurious for upper class yet simple and unadorned in design.
Chinese Clothing in Ming & Qing Dynasty
Dramatic changes took place during the Ming Dynasty. A new conception came into being in clothing design, with no limitation to one style and advocating natural beauty, thus bringing vigor and vitality to the clothing culture.
The rise of the Manchu Qing Dynasty in many ways represented a cultural rupture with the past, as Manchu clothing styles were required to be worn by all noblemen and officials. The Qing first implemented queue laws that required the populace to adopt Manchu hairstyles and clothing - or face execution.
Eventually, this style became widespread among the commoners. A new style of dress, called Tangzhuang, included the Changshan worn by men and the Qipao worn by women.