Ancient Chinese Fashion

China had established a consistent form of traditional clothing during the Yellow Emperor of Emperors Yao and Shun, about 4,500 years ago. 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. However, archeologists have discovered 18,000 year old sewing needles made of bone as well as stone beads and shells with holes, representing sewing at a very early age. Archeologists have also found woven silk and hemp articles from the Shang Dynasty.

There are three forms to China’s traditional attire: pien-fu, ch’ang-p’ao, and shen-i. Chinese have favored darker colors in their clothing, with light accents. However, for everyday wear in China, lighter colors were worn much more frequently. One thing that Chinese liked to incorporate in their fashion was associating colors with seasons. For example, Chinese used green colors to depict spring, red for summer, white for autumn, and black for winter. The Chinese have a fully developed system of matching, coordinating, and contrasting colors and shades of light and dark in apparel.

Pien-fu is a round, ceremonial cap that is worn with a two-piece costume. The pien-fu includes a tunic-like top that reaches ones knees and a skirt or pants that reaches the ankles.  The pien-fu is formal attire and worn on special occasions.

The second type of clothing, called a ch’ang-p’ao, is a long robe that extends to the heels.

The shen-i is similar to the pien-fu and ch’ang-p’ao; a tunic and a skirt are sewn together, creating one large garment, like the shen-i. Shen-i is the most popular traditional clothing of the three.

All three forms of Chinese clothing were wide and loose fitting, with voluminous sleeves. Clothing had minimum stitching because it was a simple design. Because the structure of the garments were very basic, the Chinese embroidered edgings, decorated bands, draped cloth or silks, patterns on the shoulders, and sashes to vary the types of clothing.

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Ancient Chinese Make-Up

Since ancient China to modern times, the Chinese have always favored kind, beautiful, and petite women with pale skin, bright eyes, and white teeth. The beauty standard has shifted greatly throughout different historical periods in China.

For example, during the Qin and Han Dynasties (206 B.C.-220 A.D.), a woman’s morals were much more cherished as opposed to her physical beauty. During this period, ancient Chinese women dressed in very basic clothes, similar to a man’s attire. However, the ancient Chinese began to relate a white complexion with power, giving a woman the ability to hide her faults behind a powdered face. Eventually, clothes became more eccentric and women powdered their faces with white make up, darkened their eyebrows, and kept their figures small, creating a strong feminine beauty during ancient China. A woman’s sexiest feature during the Han Dynasty was her lips. Women created circle shapes, heart shapes, and flower shapes on their lips with rouge, which is similar to lipstick.

The Beauty Standard of the Qin and Han Dynasties

The beauty standard was slightly different for women during the Sui and Tang Dynasties (618-907 A.D.). Women embraced a more “natural, graceful, portly and healthy” figure rather than covering their faces with make-up, as in the Han Dynasty. A woman who expressed good health was much more appealing than the Han Dynasty’s beauty standard of a wide forehead, round face, and petite figure. A prominent feature of the Tang Dynasty was a woman’s eyebrows. Woman shaped their eyebrows to be sharp, pointed, and dark, often called a “dot eyebrow.” During the Tang Dynasty, it was also very popular for women to wear their hair smoothed back in a high bun. Ancient women of the Tang Dynasty used black dye to paint their lips very dark because they believed it showed “tenderness.”

The Beauty Standard of the Sui and Tang Dynasties,r:7,s:93&biw=1280&bih=619

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