The story of clothing and costumes is one of the most fascinating developments in human history. The Traditional Chinese Dresses for men and women has a long history and cultural content. It is an important part of Chinese excellent cultural heritage, so It has particular research value.
Every nation in the world has its unique traditional clothing. China, as a multi-ethnic and time-honoured country, has many ethnic minorities who have their indigenous culture. The mutual influences among these different cultures have contributed to the rich textures and fabrics of history and have made Chinese clothing with great variation and glory.
Top 21 Chinese traditional dresses for men and women
Traditional Chinese dress & clothing has been shaped and developed alongside the interactive influences between the outside world and China’s own dynastic traditions.
Every different dynastic has different scopes of territory, social values, social norms, etc. Therefore, many aesthetic standards were made according to the environments (socially, geographically, economically, politically) of certain dynastic. This is the main reason why traditional Chinese clothing has such many styles. Here are 21 of these most important Chinese traditional outfits for men and women:
Hanfu, with the name oriented from the Chinese meaning ‘Han people’s clothing,’ encompassing all types and styles of traditional clothing worn by the Han Chinese.
The Han Chinese trace a common ancestry to the Huaxia, a name for the initial confederation of agricultural tribes living along the Yellow River.
Hanfu, as its definition, was born at the beginning of the history of Han ethnicity. Therefore, it has the longest history among all traditional Chinese clothing.
2. Cheongsam Qipao
Cheongsam, also known as Qipao in Mandarin, is a traditional dress that has its origins back in the 17th century. It is a type of famine body-hugging dress with distinctive Chinese features of Manchu origin. During the 1920s-1930s, it was called mandarin gown and popularized by upper-class women in Shanghai.
Nowadays, Cheongsam is recognized worldwide and has inspired many foreign adaptations because of its simple yet exotic lines. It is popular because it fits the Chinese female figure well, has simple lines, and looks elegant. It is suitable for wearing all year round for both young and elderly groups.
The outfit is popularly worn in China as a wedding dress, traditionally in red. Cheongsam is usually embroidered with elaborate gold and silver designs. Brides in southern China wear Qipao or a modified two-piece style, elaborately adorned with a gold dragon and phoenix pattern. Dragon and Phoenix is a traditional wedding dress favoured by Chinese brides nowadays.
3. Ethnic Minorities – Colourful Costumes:
Ethnic minorities in China are the non-Han Chinese population in China. The 55 ethnic minorities are Mongolian, Hui, Tibetan, Uygur, Miao, Yi, Zhuang, Dai, etc.
As to the clothing of the ethnic minorities, great variations could be observed due to geographical, cultural, and historical factors. Common features of ethnic minority clothing are flowery and colourful, extremely exquisite, and highly distinctive.
Costumes of ethnic minorities vary greatly with different nationalities and different branches and regions within the same ethnic group.
4. Tang Suit:
The Tang suit often refers to a type of Chinese jacket rather than the clothing of the Tang Dynasty. The origin of Tang suit actually only dates back to the Qing Dynasty era. It was developed from a type of the era’s Manchurian clothing — the magua (horse gown).
This name came from the overseas Chinese. The clothes the people of Tang Dynasty wore were called “Tang suits” (which has been translated as Tangzhuang.
Traditional Tang suits, based on the magua of the Manchu ethnicity, usually have Chinese characters on them to express good luck or best wishes. The most popular characters include fu (‘happiness and good luck) and shou (‘longevity’).
Nowadays, Tang suits have become a kind of formal dress worn on some special occasions, such as Chinese New Year, wedding ceremonies, or important events. Read more about the Tang suit.
5. The Zhongshan Suit:
The Zhongshan suit, also known as the Mao suit overseas, is a type of men’s jacket.
The design of Zhongshan suits combines traditional Chinese and Western clothing styles. Zhongshan suits have four big pockets on the front, two up two down, equally spaced left and right.
There are five central buttons on the front and three smaller buttons on each sleeve. Zhongshan suits can be worn on formal and casual occasions because of their symmetrical shape, generous appearance, elegance, and stable impression.
The colours of Zhongshan suits are various, but usually plain, including black, white, blue, and grey. Wearers choose different colours for different situations. Read more about Zhongshan Suit.
6. Dragon Robe:
The dragon robe was the daily dress for emperors. They considered the dragon an important symbol as dragons were thought to have emerged from heaven in ancient times.
The robe had a round collar with buttons on the right. Most of the buttons were yellow in colour because it was the official colour for emperors. As well as the symbolic dragon, many other animals were featured such as the eagle, tiger, snake, and a devil.
7. Clothes for the Head (Phoenix Crown, Tang Official Headwear, Song Official Headwear, Ming):
The cap or hat has had a long history in ancient China and was an important item of clothing. Men wore hats and women preferred hairpieces. The hat was mostly seen on men once they had reached the age of 20 as a sign that they had reached adulthood.
The ancient Chinese hat was quite different to today’s styles. It covered only part of the calvaria with its narrow ridge instead of the whole head like a modern cap. The cap is also indicative of social hierarchy and status.
8. Classic Ruqun:
The history of ruqun may be far-reaching, however, thanks in large part to its simple, minimalistic design – right overlapping collar shirt and wrap skirt. For thousands of years, the ruqun is one of the most popular styles of traditional Chinese dresses. And it’s a very flexible piece of clothing that can very seamlessly fit into the modern-day wardrobe.
The ruqun for men is shorter and generally more muted in colour and design compared to women’s, which often boast bright colours and floral motifs.
The ruqun dress code denotes different colours, patterns and designs based on age and marital status.
9. Wuxia Style:
Simply put, the traditional wuxia style dress is the lighter, longer version of the ruqun. Martial arts novels and xianxia movies are now a big trend all over the world, so once you go out wearing this traditional Chinese dress, others may think you are a martial arts master or even treat you like a kungfu star, imagine how fun that would be.
10. Fashion Beizi:
The Beizi style won the honour of being the most fashionable traditional Chinese dress in last year’s poll. Beizi is actually just a long shirt or jacket, the strings attached to the lapels let you decide if you want to wear them open or closed. Precisely because it does not have a fixed way to wear it, beizi is very versatile and has endless possibilities.
It is a casual summer shirt. Beizi is made from light cotton or silk fabric. Back in the day, they were mostly worn around the house, since the light fabric is perfect for the hot, humid weather – like a particularly snazzy sleeping robe.
Beizi for men are a little bit shorter and thicker, while the one for women is very light even see-through (wearing an inside tank top or halter is necessary), and feature a larger variety of colours and patterns.
The Beizi is very stylish, casual, as well as sexy, in the past few years, it has conquered China’s fashion scene as a trendy hanfu jacket.
11. Liling Robe:
A more formal incarnation of the hanfu, Ming-style Liling is a medium-length jacket designed to be worn over the ruqun. In Mid-Ming dynasty was only accessible to those of a higher social class, for example, queens and princesses. like the lolita-style dress was worn in Europe.
Ming liling a standout piece of traditional Chinese wear. As simple or as extravagant as you like, there’s a type of clothing for every occasion and every style. For women, the Ming hanfu is a must-have traditional dress.
12. Modern Qipao:
A modern qipao one of the most traditional Chinese dresses. It is actually more similar to a loose shirt, the cheongsam’s more informal and relaxed counterpart.
The most iconic and easily recognizable of all traditional Chinese wear, the qipao is still a staple piece for many Chinese women and is growing in international appeal too.
Drawing influence from ancient Chinese style clothing, the qipao was worn initially with a long hemline, a long skirt type piece that sometimes featured a slit on both sides.
13. Songku Pants:
Hidden under a hanfu robe is where you’ll find a songku, thin trousers worn to protect the intimate areas of the body. Typically made from cotton or silk, the hanfu dress and robe are mostly very light and see-through, you can select a tank top, halter on top, and a pair of Song pants underneath. When you wear a traditional Chinese dress, this is a great combination of underwear that will go well together.
Inspired by the horse-riding trousers worn during the Tang dynasty, over time the place of the songku in Chinese society shifted, it looks a little long resembles loose-fitting pants. Today women are more likely to wear songku under their beizi and liling on formal and informal occasions.
14. Winter Aoqun:
Aoqun is a winter coat and was typically worn by ancient Chinese people during the Chilly season. Wearing an aoqun with a cloak is the most fashionable match at the end of the year.
These jacket-length Heavy coats, two-layer outfit, consisting of out-layer beautiful patterns and inner-layer warm cashmere, was traditionally only worn on the coldest days.
15. Horse Face Skirt:
The Mamian Qun (literally meaning ‘horse face skirt’) is the shining jewel of traditional Chinese skirts. Mamianqun are wide pleated skirts worn by women, this traditional Chinese garment used to be part of a Nomadic people’s uniform, which help leg moving when horse riding.
The horse-face dress uses an extremely ancient textile process that requires gold threads to be woven into the fabric so it can have a shimmering visual effect. Typically worn for special occasions before.
16. Tunics Like Long T-shirts (Xia Dynasty):
The ancient Chinese wore tunics like long- and short-sleeved robes with or without belts. Women mostly wore long tunics with a belt that touched the ground and men wore shorter ones that touched their knees.
Initially, there were no buttons, as these were developed much later on. Some people wore an outer jacket to keep them warm during the winter, and this was commonly used during the Xia dynasty (2070–1600 BC).
17. Adornment and Jewellery:
Adornment and jewellery were not only part of fashion, but they were also symbols of social status. There were many rules about the wearing of jewellery. An individual could easily identify a person’s social status by looking at their jewellery. Men used belt hooks or buckles, and women wore combs and hairpins. The ancient Chinese wore more silver than gold. They also used other materials like blue kingfisher feathers, blue gems, and glass.
The ancient Chinese preferred jade over any other stone. They believed that jade had the human-like qualities of hardness, durability, and beauty. The early jade designs were simple, but they evolved over time. Neither men nor women wore earrings in ancient China.
18. Pien Fu:
The pien fu is a ceremonial dress consisting of two pieces. One is a tunic that extends to the knees on the top, and the other is a skirt that reaches to the ankles on the bottom.
This unique two-piece was available in different colours, each colour having a different meaning. For instance, red represented summer, green was for wealth, harmony, and growth, and black was for winter.
The sheni is a modification of the pien fu. It is a combination of a tunic and a skirt stitched together to become a single long suit. The sheni was extremely popular in ancient China.
It was common among government officials and scholars. The sheni took its inspiration from the traditional pien fu, with a similar cut.
20. Chang Pao:
The chang pao is a single suit that covers most of the body from the shoulders to the ankles. It is a combination of several other Chinese outfits. It was a loose-fitting dress, especially worn by men.
The chang pao was introduced by the Manchu who travelled from northern China where the winter was colder than in central China. The horseshoe design was to protect the hands from cold in the winter. Men could roll their sleeves up while conducting their daily business or hunting.
21. The Shenyi:
The shenyi is one of the traditional Chinese dresses for men. Later, it became popular in Korea and Japan. The dress declined in popularity during the Tang dynasty. The shenyi was made up of ramie, or linen, fabric that needed to be bleached.
Clothes were highly symbolic in ancient China. The dress was part of a culture that showed each individual’s place in society. Archaeologists have found artefacts that are thousands of years old such as stone beads, ornaments, and woven silk.
Today, when you walk down the streets of China’s major cities, you can see lots of young boys and girls wearing different kinds of traditional Chinese dresses. For them, it’s not simply about retro culture, but experiencing a fantasy world where they are simultaneously in ancient and modern times.
Aside from that, many fashion designers are creating a mega surprise for all of us, and there will be a constant stream of different art forms and design ideas based on traditional clothing. We believe that the list of the 21 most popular styles of traditional Chinese dresses will soon have new contestants. Let us know your favourite picks in the comment section.