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Ancient Chinese fashion A timeline of women in China

What was ancient Chinese fashion like? How did it evolve as Dynasties changed and replaced each other? This infographic shows how Women’s dress fashion evolved in China throughout the age, and shows how much each new ruler sought to impose their style on its Chinese denizens.

In 1644, a dramatic shift in ruling occurred in China. The Manchus took over from the Hans and started the Qing Dynasty. One consequence of this epic battle of dynasties, that is still visible today? A new form of clothing, the Qipao,  – which is what we now associate with China – came to replace the traditional dress of the Han people, the Hanfu. Read on and click through to learn more about the evolution of Chinese clothing throughout the Dynasties.

full chinese fashion timeline


Ancient Chinese Fashion timeline of Women’s clothing –This week’s infographic was made by Nannaia, in an effort to document the evolution of Chinese Women’s clothing across the ages.

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A battle of Dynasties: Hanfu vs. Qipao

Over the years in China, each new ruling Dynasty was intent on imposing their style to leave a trace. None really dared to revolution the Chinese traditional style of clothing however, until the Qings arrived. T

The Qipaos, not really Chinese?

1920s style Chinese Qipao

Qipaos, especially the modern, 1920s Shanghai-inspired, form-fitting Qipaos, are the first type of dresses that spring to mind when one thinks about traditional Chinese clothing. However, this form of dress was actually brought in by the Manchu-ruled Qing Dynasty in the 17th century (1644) and is therefore relatively “new” by Chinese standards. The Qing Dynasty was one of the longest lasting ones in Chinese history (around 300 years), and the last dynasty before China became a republic, which may be why many mistake the Qipao for the Chinese ethnic dress.

The Hanfu, the real leading Ancient Chinese fashion style

Inspired by ancient Chinese fashion, the Hanfu Chinese Style of Clothing is making a come-back


The original Chinese traditional dress was, in fact, the Hanfu, 汉服 (literally Han clothing), also know as Hanzhuang (漢裝) or Huafu (華服). The Hanfu is said to have appeared during China’s first Empire, about 5,000 years ago and then remained the outfit of choice in China for the next thousand years (its main appearance remaining more or less same over the years, save for a few  details). Until the Manchus took over, that is.

The Hanfu is even considered to have inspired the Japanese Kimono and the Korean Hanbok. See how similar they can look:

 (Youku link for those who can’t access Youtube)

If you want to know more about the Hanfu origins and style, read this and this introduction to Hanfu clothing. To learn more about the evolution of Chinese clothing across the Dynasties, check this out, which explains in more detail the Hanfu/Qipao transformation and read this, and the infographic artist’s blog for futher explanations on the whys and hows of each Chinese Dynasty’s garments

Reinstating the Hanfu style?

While Chinese actresses often wear Qipaos to world events, a movement started in 2003 to reinstate the Hanfu as China’s traditional outfit. Some are even pushing for daily wear. See here and here for pictures of modern-day Hanfu-wearing.

Which do you like best? The Qipao? The Hanfu? Which would you wear?

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