Chinese Clothing Defined
China Fashion Industry

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

Dynastic China

Traditional Chinese clothing is broadly referred to as hanfu with many variations such as traditional Chinese academic dress. Japanese clothes and Chinese clothes are very similar. 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 bright, silk coated Lotus shoes under their bound feet. Male shoes were mostly less elaborate than women's.

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 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.

Qing Dynasty (1644–1911)

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. This style eventually became popular 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.

Republican Era

Two women wearing cheongsams in a 1930s Shanghai advertisement.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 (cheongsam) resulted in a slender and form fitting dress with a high cut, resulting in the contemporary image of a cheongsam but contrasting sharply with the traditional qipao.

Early People's Republic

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, popularised 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.[2] 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.[2] A number of these items were thrown into the streets to embarrass the citizens.[3]

Clothing in contemporary China (1980–present)

Chinese fashion has drastically changed over time. Following the relaxation of communist clothing standards in the late 70s, the way Chinese dressed and the fashion trends of the country were also changing. Contemporary urban clothing seemed to have developed an obsession with brand names. In major urban centres, especially Shanghai, an increased western look is preferred, and there is an emphasis on formal wear over casual wear for adults on the streets. Teenagers prefer brand names and western clothing. Children usually wear clothes decorated with cartoon characters. However, there is also effort by the hanfu to revive traditional clothing forms such as the hanfu by the hanfu movement. At an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Shanghai in 2001, the host presented silk-embroidered tangzhuang jackets as the Chinese traditional national costume. However in rural China, clothing tends to be the same as it was in the 1960s. This is because life in rural China has not been influenced by western lifestyle. Also, most people residing in rural China cannot afford such new and pricey clothing from new western style companies. However, many rural Chinese in the less isolated areas have blue jeans, T-shirts, and modern jackets because of many factories that manufacture these goods at an affordable price. Rural Chinese just don't have the fancier modern clothing such as designer jeans, high heels, miniskirts, dresses, etc. People in rural China also tend to have cotton shoes, but the wealthier areas may have cheap sneakers. In rural China non-western modern clothing e.g. Mao suit are usually hand-made by grandmothers who are very experienced in tailoring and sewing.


The above definition regarding Chinese clothing is from Wikipedia.  You can find the Wikipedia page at  The definition has been slightly modified by the China Clothing Factories website.  Please visit Wikipedia at the page mentioned above for the most current version.

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