Cultural Significance of Chinese Clothing
Table of Contents
2. Overview of changes in Chinese fashion over time
* Ancient Chinese clothing
* Fashion during Mao’s era
* Fashion of PRC today
3. Compare and contrast of Russian fashion during the same period * Soviet Union fashion
* Fashion after Soviet Union era
4. Influences and inspirations of ancient China’s clothing style on today’s style * Effect on the designs of clothing
Since the very beginning of time, when people lived in huts and stone houses, the idea of fashion started to emerge in the form of garments made out of beast skins and leaves. Back then, ones who had the ability to hunt more beasts produced better garments and had a relatively higher status among the rest. That was the original idea of defining a man’s social status by his clothing style. In ancient China, the same story applied.
Chinese people first developed the idea of Hanfu (Chinese traditional clothing) during the Shang dynasty. Back then one person’s appearance can already tell what social status he held. The outfit was unisex and the colors of the Hanfu’s were merely basic primary colors like red, yellow, and blue. Later in history these Hanfu developed into more sophisticated style clothings like Shenyi around Zhou dynasty, and gender specification came to be. Men and women wore different clothings. However, during Mao’s era, everyone wore unisex tunic uniforms again, it was seen as a political implication. Soon after the social reform, and China’s open policy towards other countries, the clothing style changed dramatically. Dresses were introduced from western countries and they greatly influenced the fashion of Chinese people until this day.
Historically, Russia also experienced similar changes China went through; correspondingly, their fashion also went through a rollercoaster ride. Despite the difference in the ancient clothing styles of the two countries, they had an astonishingly similar fashion during the communism era. For Russia, unisex tunic uniforms were also mainstream. When the Soviet Union fell apart, Russia experienced a dramatic change that was also similar to China’s.
Overall, the cultural significance of China’s clothing style is undeniable as it changed and reflected many values that Chinese people hold. In the following essay, we shall do our best to elaborate and analyze examples that represent the cultural significance of Chinese clothing style.
* Overview of changes in Chinese fashion over time:
For readers that didn’t know this subject so well, the following paragraphs will explain some basic changes in China’s fashion trend. In ancient China, people’s clothings “consisted mostly of robes. While the women wore lengthy tunics that reached the ground, the men wore tunics that reached their knees.” (Schwebius). The clothing style was simple and most have clean cuts, and “the overall characteristics of the Chinese garments can be summarized as bright colors, refined artisanship, and ornate details” (“Information”). “Clothing was a show of class in ancient China. The fabric, color, and decorations on their clothing told about the wearer's position in society;” clothing was a token for one’s social status and was seen more than just personal decoration (Bethany). “However, the advent of Mao’s regency changed the dressing style dramatically as the new social system got rid of the old gender specific clothings because Mao thought, in order for the society to move forward, we must abolish the old practices and old cultures and embrace the idea of Marxism as the new system. In the new system, everyone was equally treated and “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” (Marx). The idea spread quickly and soon men and women began to wear what was called the “Mao suits,” which was a “tunic...
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