Clothing in China did not only evolve over time; it often transformed dramatically following Dynastic changes or the Imperial decree of a new ruler. The ancient Chinese clothing has its own beauty and grace. In ancient feudal society, people’s rank and position could easily be distinguished from their daily dress, especially for the ordinary people and upper-class. Chinese people were wearing silk while other cultures were still dressing in animal skins.
The Chinese people are a fashionable kind and have set many trends since ancient times. The Chinese clothing has seen immense variations and influences from the olden days. There are various dynasties that influenced the styles of the ancient Chinese clothing. From long robes to wide sleeves, each had their own distinct pattern, which made its mark.
The Hanfu was considered to be very important by the Han Chinese as far as their culture was concerned. It was also known that one has to follow the rules of dressing that belonged to the Hanfu styles, as a mark of respect. The basic style and design of the Hanfu were developed to a great extent in the Shang Dynasty. The Shang dynasty saw 2 basic styles-The Yi and the Shang. The Yi is the coat worn on top and the Shang is the skirt that is worn beneath. There was a major use of sash instead of buttons and the sleeve cuffs were styled narrow. The colors of the fabrics were basically in warm tones. The western Zhou Dynasty also followed similar styles and designs of the Shang dynasty. This is where one saw the variations in the sleeves-narrow as well as broad. The lengths of the skirts saw different levels, from the knee to the ankle.
During the Sui and the Tang dynasty, more ideas were accepted. The minimal stitches on the fabric were also used for the ancient Chinese clothing. The structure was plain and there was a wide use of embroidery and silk sashes to add to the design of the dress. Among the upper dominating class, only to the Emperor was assigned the colour yellow and the dragon emblem on traditional Chinese imperial dress as an exclusive affirmation of their power. The dragon robe was one such popular robe that had patterns of dragons embroidered all over. This was actually seen first in the Zhou Dynasty. These robes consist of nine yellow dragons and five cloud patterns that are considered to be auspicious for the wearer. The dragon robe derived its name in the Qing Dynasty. The clouds on the robes further incorporate 12 patterns. These also have a symbolic meaning to express. The nine and five combinations were deliberately calculated when designing the robe, as it symbolized the dignity of the throne. These dragons are embroidered on the front, back, knee areas or even the shoulders.
Cheongsam is also popular and still popular with today’s market. The ancient Chinese Manchu women mainly wore this in the olden days. These were easy to adorn and maintain and complemented the figure of a Chinese woman. The basic style of the cheongsam consists of a high neck with a closed collar and sleeves that are either short or medium. The cheongsam is buttoned on the right side and has a fitted waist. It also has slits that go up from the sides. There are many variations of the cheongsam available, to suit the modern tastes. They are often used patches of embroidery, which were mainly animal prints. These embroideries are very intricate and beautiful in its appearance. The various animals that were used also symbolized the rank of the officers who wore them on their garments.