1. the sleeves of hanfu shouldn’t be attach right on the shoulder joint - even when it was at the “shoulder” portion of clothes, the hanfu was so big that the seam would fall in the upper arm
The sleeve attachment point will be much lower in Song/Ming style because the fabric width was larger at that point in history.
2. hanfu doesn’t have shoulder pad. A lot of cdrama loves to add those things - it is a modern influence of Japanese clothing. if one really want to accent the shoulder, especially when wearing Tang style, the character could wear a brocade/stiffer banbi (short-sleeve) underneath.
(this isn’t a good example because the yuanlingpao was stiff too.)
Hi! I'm really fond of researching about hanfu and its history, and I found a lot of interesting information on this blog. But I can't help it and keep wondering about the reason for qipao/cheongsang not be considered a hanfu? When I researched about it the most common argument is the Manchu influence on it. However, there are a plenty of hanfu styles that were influenced by other cultures. Is there a more especific reason for not consider the qipao?
Hi, thanks for the question, and glad you like my blog! (x)
I want to start off with an important disclaimer:
The term “hanfu” as we use it today (defined as “traditional Han Chinese clothing”) does not have the exact same meaning as when it was used historically. As @audreydoeskaren explains in this post, “while it is true that the term “hanfu” was used in some historical texts, they were often used in opposition to clothing worn by foreign peoples...and not as a standalone term”. Today, there is no central organizing body or law that states exactly what is & what is not considered hanfu. Rather, such categorization is done by the members of the hanfu community - and the hanfu community is not a monolith. Ever since its inception in 2003, the hanfu revival movement has been a grassroots, bottom-up movement with members of various backgrounds, ideologies, and opinions. It is a movement that is built upon, and driven forward by, constant dialogue and debate among its members. Thus the question of what garments are considered hanfu is under continuous discussion, and is subject to the hanfu community’s views and ideas on culture, clothing, and history.
With that being said, it’s true that there is almost unanimous agreement within the hanfu community that qipao/cheongsam (I will refer to it here mainly as qipao because that is what I’m used to) is not considered hanfu. In my (non-expert & non-academic) opinion, there are two main reasons for this: 1) Unclear origins and 2) Western influence. Let’s examine each (Note: I will be referring a lot to posts by resident qipao expert @audreydoeskaren, who is much more knowledgeable about the subject than I am. Please check out her series on early 20th century Chinese womenswear if you haven’t already):
1. Unclear Origins
It is widely acknowledged that the qipao as we know it today was first popularized during the 1920s, but what led up to that - the origins of qipao - are actually unclear. It is most commonly touted as being derived from Manchu one-piece robes, but “origins of cheongsam are truly unclear and it’s very likely that the many theories attributing it to Manchu fashion were invented after its popularization” (x). The Wikipedia article on cheongsam states that the garment is “of Manchu origin”, but does not give any details on exactly when, why, and how it was adopted by Han women (as during the Qing dynasty Han women wore two-piece garments and did not wear Manchu one-piece robes). The article’s “Controversies on origin” section states that “the cheongsam is generally considered to be adapted from the one-piece dress of Manchu women during the Qing dynasty. However, there has been considerable debate on the origin of the cheongsam in academic circles”, and proceeds to give three alternative theories on the origin of the qipao.
Below, from left to right - 1. Manchu women’s one-piece robe during the Qing dynasty, 2. qipao from 1932, 3. 1930s-style qipao (x)
While there are various theories, the Manchu one-piece robe origin theory is still the most widely accepted, and thus is a major reason for why the qipao is not considered to be hanfu. @audreydoeskaren explains in detail the arguments for the Manchu origin theory here.
2. Western Influence
The qipao’s silhouette and style changed rapidly during its heydays in the 1920s-1950s. During these years there was significant Western influence on Chinese fashion, and that influence was reflected in the evolution of the qipao. Below is an (very simplified) illustration of the evolution of qipao style from the 1920s-1940s (x). Note how the silhouettes correspond to what was trendy in Western fashion at the time:
1920s - loose, flat, and boxy
1930s - long, slender, and streamlined
1940s - shorter, squared shoulders, and cinched waist
Arguably the greatest lasting impact of Western fashion on qipao was that of Christian Dior’s extreme hourglass New Look silhouette on 1950s & 1960s qipao. To achieve this new fashionable silhouette, qipao makers in the 1950s starting using Western tailoring techniques such as darts, shoulder seams, and zippers. Below - Dior’s New Look (left) & 1950s qipao (right):
The use of darts, shoulder seams, and zippers continues today to create the curvy, form-fitting silhouette of contemporary qipao. The westernization of the silhouette, along with the usage of these relatively modern tailoring techniques, are further reasons for qipao to be categorized separately from hanfu by the hanfu community. Even hanfu that use nontraditional techniques such as shoulder seams and zippers are not recognized as “authentic” hanfu by many in the hanfu community. Rather, they are categorized as modified hanfu/改良汉服 and/or hanyuansu/汉元素 (clothing with elements of hanfu).
Now as you mentioned, it is true that several hanfu styles were influenced by other cultures (one notable example is the Yuan dynasty’s Mongolian influence on Ming dynasty hanfu: 1, 2). Furthermore, while the qipao might possibly be derived from Manchu robes, it was ultimately mainly created, worn, and innovated by Han people. So why not consider qipao a type of hanfu? My view is that it is the combination of the abovementioned factors (unclear origins, westernization, tailoring techniques) that places qipao outside the classification of hanfu, from the perspective of the hanfu community. For more details on the differences between hanfu and qipao, please check out this article.
I want to be clear, however, that this separate classification is not a value judgment. Qipao may not be classified as hanfu under the current definition of hanfu, but that does not in any way take away from the qipao’s importance, significance, and value to Chinese fashion history & culture in general. The most iconic Chinese garment of the 20th century, the qipao reflects the tastes and values of its time, and to this day is an ubiquitous part of a Chinese woman’s wardrobe. There are many people (such as myself) who like and wear both hanfu and qipao.
In fact, it makes me happy to see that there appears to be a growing interest in reviving & taking inspiration from vintage qipao styles. I see this as a part of the general trend of interest in historical Chinese clothing that the hanfu revival movement belongs to. Below are a few vintage-inspired qipao that I find appealing (1/2/3/4/5/6):
For more information, please see my “qipao” tag.
Hope this helps!
(Note: if anyone wants to add information, share thoughts, or correct a mistake, please do! I welcome it ^^)
Coser小梦 portrays the Chinese mermaid called Jiaoren/鲛人. According to “In Search of the Supernatural/搜神记”, a 4th-century compilation of Chinese legends about ghosts and spirits, Jiaoren lived in the South Sea, spent their days weaving cloth, and if they cried, their tears would turn into pearls (x). See more Chinese mermaids here.
I'm sorry about Lau's hairstyle, but that's what Chinese men had to work with during the Qing dynasty, especially members of the nobility such as him.
Also, interesting fact, only women of the Han ethnic group practiced foot-binding. Since it's never stated what ethnicity is Ran Mao, I just assumed that she didn't have her feet bound, since she is an assassin (and side note: we hate the oversexualization of Asian women in this house, gtfo with that shit)
I'm sorry in advance for any mistake, please feel free to correct me in the replies (but keep the discussion civil)
Hello I would love to hear your thoughts and review of the "China (Leah Li) | 100 Years of Beauty - Ep 15 | Cut" video on YouTube and the video that shows the research behind of each of the looks . I specifically would like to hear your thoughts on the decades (1900s to 1960s)
Link to the video, the research video
Hi, I’m ready to lose some braincells tonight and I'd love to review this video as well! I remember watching this video back when it first came out, I had no idea about historical fashion then and I was super impressed, so we'll see how things have changed ahaha.
Ok this is actually very good! We're off to a good start. The long mid parts bangs and the low bun at the back were indeed fashionable in the 1910s. There were other very cool hairstyles in the 1910s, but I guess due to the limitation of the format they could only show one.
Mid 1910s artwork.
Actor Mei Lanfang in fashionable women's clothing and hairstyles.
The reference image they used is actually from the 1910s, good job!!
This is beginning to resemble the psychic damage I am so accustomed to. This length is definitely way too long for the 1920s, and what are these loose, limp curls? The classic 1920s women's hairstyle was a short bob (emphasis on short) with numerous styles of bangs. Bobs could also be styled in a variety of ways, with the lower ends often puffy in the middle of the decade. Some women who didn't cut their hair short wore their long hair brushed back and in a low bun, with optional decorations like hairpins and flowers. It should be noted that having long hair in the 1920s or 30s was not synonymous with being conservative----short bobs were not the only fashion forward hairstyle, and long hair rolled into buns was equally fashionable. I'm honestly tired of this short hair=emancipated woman vs. long hair=old fashioned false dichotomy.
Long hair pulled back with puffy sideburns.
Toward the end of the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s, within the Deco period of 1929-32, a greater variety of hairstyles and variations of hairstyles became available and people would often style their hair in unique ways that follow the general gist of fashion trends but look different individually. Finger waving became popular in the years 1929-30, and this specific hairstyle where the hair is finger waved and then pinned at the sides to create two puffy ends at the sides was all the rage. It's very difficult to describe but easy to spot in images. You might think this looks similar to what they have in the video but nope, the waves/curls in this hairstyle are much tighter and the hair is much shorter. These hairstyles were also not strictly 20s hairstyles either as there was significant overlap with the early 30s.
Long hair pulled back into this neat, clean faux-butch look was also en vogue.
The reference image they used is from the 1930s lmaoooo. Who told the researcher it was from the 20s. Also the “shift toward Western influence” thing is incorrect, Chinese fashion’s relationship to Western influence fluctuated from decade to decade and was not a linear trend, and the 1920s, especially 1923-28 actually saw a shift away from Western influence and toward 19th century Chinese inspirations, in contrast to the very westernized 1910s, before going back to Western influence around 1929.
Similar poster from 1930-31.
Ahhhhh the horror, please spare me😨 This could potentially be the finger waves pinned back at both sides I mentioned earlier if the curls were smaller and tighter and the hair was shorter, but then you would also need to move the hairline and bangs upward by a lot.
Even if this hairstyle were accurate it still wouldn’t be representative of the 30s; in fact, no single hairstyle would be able to represent a whole decade in 20th century China, because there were so many different hairstyles within every decade. The 30s was the least diverse in terms of hairstyle out of all the decades in the Republican era but still offered multiple choices. In the early 30s, side parted voluminous finger waves were popular; they had a distinct dense, wave-like shape unlike the loose, huge curl the model in the video is wearing. In the late 30s puffier middle parted brush out curls pinned back at both sides were more common. This didn’t have the wave-like shape but was fluffy and visible circular shapes.
Early 30s hairstyles in Ling Long magazine.
You can see the wave-like texture better in photographs.
Mid to late 30s hairstyles.
Late 30s hairstyles.
I have these exact two images sitting in my Pinterest board and I know they are both from the 1931-33 range, so the time is very close to the reference image they found for the “1920s”, resulting in two similar yet badly executed hairstyles that could represent neither decade. I would like to move on.
They did the 1940s so dirty here... The biggest problem is probably the flat front, as few hairstyles from the 1940s had a flat front. Most 40s hairstyles featured some sort of volume at the front, be they victory rolls, pompadours, small curls, a teased part or upswept poodles. They did get the length more or less correct, as 1940s hairstyles were much longer than 1930s ones and could reach below the nape of the neck or even the shoulders.
40s hairstyle with pompadour front and long curls.
Here’s a handy diagram of a bunch of 1940s actresses together, showing their hairstyles. Shows you just how diverse 1940s hairstyles were.
I immediately knew they were referencing this image the moment I saw it, and the reason as to why they still got it wrong after seeing this hairstyle in such close detail could only be allocated to blindness. In the reference image, Zhou Xuan’s hair at the front was pulled back and secured with a pin, not left to flow back like in the video. The curls at the back also seem to be small pompadours/ringlets instead of curls, as they appear smoothly conical instead of fluffy and circular. This hairstyle was also a very stylized one made for one individual actress, not something common that “normal” fashionable women would wear. The more common hairstyle was by far regular brush out curls with top volume shown in the previous diagram.
Here is a colorized version of the reference image in case you want to see it in more detail:
I am well versed with all the stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding Mao era fashion so I was mentally prepared for this bullshit but the cringe still hit me like a truck. I... If they were doing wealthy privileged women fashion for all the other decades why aren’t they sticking with it for the 1950s and 60s?? Gives you the false idea that beautiful, put together women didn’t exist in the 1950s and that poor, working class women didn’t exist prior. Let me show you what a posh mainland Chinese woman looked like in the 1950s goddamnit.
Thank you Sam Sanzetti (the photographer) for giving us these wonderful portraits, rest in power😢
1950s Chinese fashion was a continuation of the 1940s, including hairstyles. Chinese women continued donning brush out curls like those worn by Western and Hong Kong actresses, albeit shorter and with less volume at the top as the fashion dictated.
Hong Kong based actress Xia Meng and her hairstyle.
Another thing people don’t realize is that working class women commonly wore brush out curls as well, by the 1950s they were so naturalized in China that they weren’t a strictly upper or middle class thing anymore.
Bam, surprise motherfucker. Anyone who refuses to acknowledge curled hairstyles as legitimate 1950s and 60s mainland Chinese hairstyles because “they were boogie and not representative of the working class” does not know what they are doing.
Here’s another handy diagram of actors and actresses from 1961 showing their hairstyles. Their hair and makeup were quite similar to Hollywood actresses of the same time to be honest.
Yeah yeah you found the most generic propaganda poster ok bye.
The 1960s is always this red guard stereotype I don’t even want to unpack it (also I’m not the most knowledgeable on 1960s hairstyles so I won’t give you incorrect information😅)