The Traditional Costumes of the Chinese

Written by brenda priddy
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The Traditional Costumes of the Chinese
Chinese people still dress in traditional clothing for festivals and other historical events. (Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Traditional Chinese clothing is different than what most people think of when they think of Chinese dress. The clothing worn in China today is a highly modernised version of the outfits worn traditionally in the past. Traditional Chinese clothing originates from around 1100AD. Most traditional clothing worn in China today is based off of the clothing styles from this period.


Chinese men wore a series of long robes in traditional dress. The men wore a long under tunic that reached to their ankles or the floor. This tunic was often white or another neutral colour. The under tunic had a mandarin collar. Over the neutral tunic, the men wore another tunic that reached to the knees or just below. The over tunic had a v-neck collar. In winter, men would wear long, padded jackets over their tunics. On their feet men wore long socks and black slippers that look like modern boat shoes. Men wore their hair in a topknot with a long braid hanging down the back.


Women dressed similarly to men. Women also wore two separate tunics just like the men. However, the women's over tunic was longer than the men's and reached to the ankles or down to the floor. The women would often accessorise the tunic with a wide belt. Women also would wear a shawl over their shoulders. Women wore long socks and rounded shoes designed to fit over bound feet. Ancient Chinese women were forced to bend their feet in half from birth, which gave the foot an odd shape. Women wore their hair up in buns and accessorised with ribbons and head coverings.


Children dressed similarly to adults. However, many children wore trousers under their long tunics. Boys wore a neutral coloured under tunic that was sometimes split into trousers. Over the neutral tunic the boys wore a knee-length tunic with a mandarin collar. The boys often belted their tunics with long strips of cloth. Just like adult men, boys wore topknots on the top of their heads with a long ponytail or braid. Boys wore long socks and black shoes just like adult men.


Girls wore clothing similar to that of boys. A girl would wear two tunics over each other just like women. The under tunic reached to the floor. However, the over tunic was shorter than that of adult women and often did not reach below the calf. Girls had bound feet just like the women, and would wear multicoloured shoes that fit over the unusual foot shape. Girls parted their hair in the middle and wore small buns or pigtails.

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