Firstly, there are obvious differences on clothing concepts between Chinese and Western people. Influenced by Confucian value and ethical function, Chinese people have always maintained an eastern style conservative. Skin is closely covered and concealed. To some extent, Chinese clothing culture is a kind of “cover” culture. People should not “reveal” body shape and even skin. A large space is maintained between clothing and the body. This kept clothing relative stable in change on form, but to develop more surface decoration, patterns, colors, material textures and decoration styles. These developments have always kept Chinese clothing in strict form, except for some Men’s clothing.
It is different in western culture, except for a period when people are influenced by the Christianity. Denied the existence of human and human body’s performance, western clothing was used to present body shape in a very realistic and even exaggerated way. This is reflected both in ancient “loose clothing” culture and “close-fitting clothing” culture since the Renaissance. Clothing has been used to “stand out” and even “intensify” different sex characteristics between male and female, and skin were more and more exposed (especially for women’s clothing). They have also found some methods to “further expose” skin. This brought many profile changes and man-made structure to western clothing.
Secondly, there are differences on function awareness of clothing between Chinese and Western culture. Chinese people attach great importance on social ethics function of clothing since ancient times. They defined the function not only concerning warm and decorative features, but more concerning social status. From the Xia, Shang to the Zhou dynasty, this concept has never been given up in the improvement of ceremonial costume. Every ruler in every dynasty has attached great importance to unify people’s thought by wearing and clothing.
Although the Romans attached great importance to identity function of clothing, and have introduced a variety of apparel ban in feudal times. Very few cultures have such social function development of clothing as in China. Most of them focused mainly on wealth and aesthetic functions of clothing.
Thirdly, the human beings in different environment have created their own material culture since the end of Primitive society. From long time ago, Chinese people have begun to use plant fiber, such as linen, ramie, etc., and animal fibers, such as wool to weave, and they have begun to weave silk sericulture. Silk is a great contribution to human life from Chinese people, so it is impossible to talk Chinese clothing culture without silk.
Different from silk culture in China, flax culture prevails in ancient Egypt, wool culture prevails in the Mesopotamia and cotton culture prevails in India. Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome have no pioneering work in materials, and they imports flax and wool cultures from Mediterranean coasts and Upper Paleozoic civilizations. As for silk, although ancient Rome has touched silk from Far East through Silk Road in BC, they were never able to understand the mysteries of this beautiful fabric. Lately, they knew the secrets of silk from two missionaries sent to China by the Byzantine Empire. Then one century later, the first silk is produced in Byzantine Empire, but Europeans produced first silk until the Italian Renaissance in 13-14 century.
What’s more, there are also different dressing ways between Chinese and western clothing cultures. Chinese clothing is featured of upper and lower part separated, with opening in front and using ties to fix clothing for the convenience to wear off; and western clothing developed from put-on style to cast-over style, and then to front-open style in various forms and complex dressing skill, in which, pins or buttons are often used to fix clothing. It is hard to see cast-over clothing method in China. However, this style is very sophisticated in western countries from Tunic in ancient Egypt to Tunica in ancient Rome. Cast-over style is often found in one-piece clothing, a very sophisticated women’s clothing in nowadays, or in other words, the most formal clothing is still in cast-over style. Although “long gown” has shown in the Spring and Autumn Period BC, it is front-open style from the start, and all kinds of gowns, shirts later on are still in this style. The Western shirts in front-open style nowadays are also developed from cast- over style in the past. Front-open shirts emerged only since mid-19th century.
In addition, put-on style clothing are popular in western countries, but it is only introduced to China with Buddhism from India far later, and it only can be seen on monk’s robes even in nowadays. The clothing going with a piece of cloth, focuses on fold down effect when put on. This is also a style different from traditional Chinese costumes and dressing way. The words “loose clothing” has totally different forms, content, concept and effect in Chinese culture and western culture.
Lastly, the color of clothing is also different. We all know that red is known as the Chinese element，which represents happiness, so when holding wedding ceremony ，everyone is supposed to wear red clothes. And yellow is considered as a kind of special color, only used by emperors. In the West, red is the unlucky color. They prefer white, on behalf of purity, integrity, or black, representing the noble and mysterious.
Although the Chinese and Westerners have established their own cultures, world view, sense of worth, aesthetic standard and clothing cultures in different geographical environment, as the human living together Earth, there are still some forms and cultural patterns in common when facing survival issues. Therefore, in addition to the differences in clothing culture mentioned above, there is something in common.
At present, the development of Chinese clothing should take on the path of both learning from the advanced technology and culture from the West, and maintaining the unique culture of Chinese people. In so doing, China clothing will be improved and recognized as a new Oriental art form by people around the world, and thus it will make its way to the world stage.