The Modernization of Traditional Chinese Hanfu and Qipao

It is difficult to define traditional Chinese clothing as one specific style since there are so many different types of clothing and styles depending on the time and dynasty, they appeared in. However, if we were to highlight two very distinct traditional garments as the most well-known and influential, these would be the Hanfu, which literally means “Han Dynasty clothing” in Chinese, and the qipao, which translates as “the Qi people gown”. Although, these are both some of the oldest traditional clothing, they still have a great influence in modern Chinese fashion, referred to as the modern qipao or “New” Hanfu and qipao.

Let’s look at the history behind these two traditional garments and their evolution to their modernized version in today’s Chinese fashion.

The Hanfu:

Hanfu is a traditional Chinese outfit which has been prevalent for a long time in Chinese history as it appeared firstly in the Qin Dynasty, 200 B.C, until the Ming Dynasty, around the year 1600. As mentioned before, Hanfu refers to the Han people clothing, thus it was created for the Han people and distinguishes itself from the clothing of other ethnic minority groups. In the Western Zhou Dynasty, hanfu was used to indicate a person’s social status as it was a time of strict hierarchical set up. Can you believe that the differences in the length of a skirt or the wideness of a sleeve were an indication of a person’s rank in society?

A traditional Hanfu is a long gown, with long sleeves and a sash used to secure the garment around the waist instead of buttons. It is characterized by colorful embroidery and a crossed collar with a right lapel (the left collar crosses over the right one). The two main designs a Hanfu can have is either as a one-piece dress or as a two-piece skirt or trouser combo which includes underwear, an inner layer and an overcoat. To complete the traditional costume accessories such as a jade belt and jewelry as well as a shawl are added.

On the other hand, the “new Hanfu” has more influence from the Western style of clothing and thus, integrates these aforementioned traditional characteristics of the traditional Hanfu with a more functional and stylish touch. The goal of the new Hanfu was to bring back wearing it in everyday life since it had become a garment used only for special occasions or formal events. This was because the traditional Hanfu gained a reputation for being inconvenient and difficult to wear compared to alternative modern clothing. By making the modern Hanfu comfortable and more varied in style it became popular to wear everyday especially for young people, children and teachers. The main elements of Hanfu are still maintained like the cross-collar, silk embroidery and retro patterns but designers have focused on making the shape of the Hanfu more fitted and unique to each body. Designers are willing to adapt Hanfu to the needs of today, which keep changing and shifting, and bring its own flair and style to present life.

Qipao

Qipao was a garment which appeared in the 1920s inspired by the long gown type garments worn in the Qing Dynasty by the Manchu people. It evolved to become the qipao which was named “national dress” up until the 1950s. Traditionally, it was a long, loose dress which had no slits or very short slits in the side. It is usually made of silk and is embroidered with different kinds of flowers, with thick laces trimmed at the collar, sleeves and edges. Qipao was initially designed for upper class women as it tried to convey their elegance and modesty and so it was not meant to be very displaying!

This meant that, originally, the dress covered the whole body almost completely and very loosely. This was hardly considered fashionable or stylish even at that time! That’s why in the 1930s, the traditional qipao was redesigned, adding western patterns to exalt the beauty and curves of a woman’s body. Today, qipao has regained its popularity and is mostly worn for special or formal occasions and has a much more westernized influence and appeal. The main differences which characterize the modern qipao are its fitted cut, right side knot buttons and two wide openings at both sides of the hips. With this regained popularity, factory made qipaos has become widely sold in Chinese shops, but it is hard to find good quality tailor made ones. If you are looking for an excellent quality qipao, Interact China is the right place to buy it! We partner with professional tailors to provide you with a handmade craftsmanship with delicate details and quality materials. Below are some examples of the qipaos we sell, which are divided into Deluxe velvet, premium silk and vintage cocktail qipaos.

Despite the distinctive characteristics which draw the Hanfu and qipao apart, they both have a deep cultural meaning which is kept alive through the transformation to more modern versions of the original garment. So, which one do you prefer? We would love to know your thoughts in the comments and hope you have learnt a bit more about the culture and history of traditional Chinese clothing!

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!”

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

How is China increasing its focus on sustainable fashion?


Written by Julia Ruston

Who has not heard about the concept of sustainable fashion yet? It is certainly a buzz word in the fashion industry, becoming more and more important as people question their choice of clothing and where it is sourced. In particular, sustainable fashion is rapidly gaining attention and influence in the Chinese fashion industry as more people, especially the younger generations, are contributing to addressing the concerns and downsides of fast fashion and want to provide a sustainable alternative.

Why is China making these changes?

Whilst a rapid economic development has been very positive for Chinese people to advance in the direction of a more harmonious and wealthy society it has also brought some safety, health and environmental issues. Since the relocation of most Western fashion giant’s production lines to China, Chinese people have been the ones to personally suffer the health, safety and environmental disasters in the textile industry. The ultimate goal to balance the economy, environment and society is one that the Chinese have realised needs a heavier focus on sustainability. This is why the Chinese government has taken action in the past years, committing to the Paris Agreement, proposing a range of carbon, energy and pollution targets in its 12th five-year plan and launching the new Made in China 2025 strategy which focuses on pursuing green development and upgrading China to be a manufacturer of quality over quantity.

The recipe for sustainability

So, if sustainable fashion is an important part of being more environmentally and socially conscious, what exactly does it englobe? Well, many people are not aware of the extensive area sustainability applies to. Here are the three overarching themes that strive for sustainability and directly apply to eco-fashion:

  1. Being respectful towards the environment, the producers, the end product’s lifecycle and the consumer.
  2. Contributing to the preservation of the cultural heritage and tradition of the product.
  3. Optimising resources by making quality, lasting products with the most natural methods and materials possible

“Made in China” reformed

China has a great opportunity to develop many sustainable fashion brands as it has an efficient and well-developed infrastructure and a skilled workforce. Fortunately, more and more Chinese fashion brands are investing in making sustainable fashion especially Gen Z designers. With the new Made in China 2025 strategy and many Chinese designers taking an interest in becoming more sustainable, it has been a growing force in Shanghai’s Fashion Week (SFW) for the past few years with many emblematic fashion designers having a go at sustainable fashion. For example, Ffixxed Studios was featured in a past edition of SFW for their focus on reducing wastage from manufacturing, using recycled materials and using natural fibres. This label’s commitment to being more sustainable has been acknowledged by winning the Yoox.com Asian Sustainable Fashion award in 2015.

Other Chinese designers that are focusing on this emerging sustainable “Made in China” label are Vega Zaishi Wang who is combining ancient craftsmanship with a modern touch in her clothing line and Angel Chang who is actively involved with local communities, in order to promote and help keep Chinese traditional designs and textiles alive.

In Interact China, we are doing our best to contribute to these sustainable goals and strongly strive to achieve the recipe for sustainability. We help promote the cultural heritage and tradition of our products which are handmade with sustainable materials. Moreover, we respect our producers who are ethnic minorities by providing fair pay and helping to keep their traditional and aboriginal designs and materials alive.


About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!”

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!