Cultural Significance of Chinese and Russian Clothing
Cultural Significance of Chinese Clothing Table of Contents 1. Introduction 2. Overview of changes in Chinese fashion over time * Ancient Chinese clothing * Fashion during Mao’s era * Fashion of PRC today 3. Compare and contrast of Russian fashion during the same period * Soviet Union fashion * Fashion after Soviet Union era * Comparisons 4. Influences and inspirations of ancient China’s clothing style on today’s style * Effect on the designs of clothing 5. Conclusion 6. Sources * Introduction:
Since the very beginning of time, when people lived in huts and stone houses, the idea of fashion started to emerge in the form of garments made out of beast skins and leaves. Back then, ones who had the ability to hunt more beasts produced better garments and had a relatively higher status among the rest. That was the original idea of defining a man’s social status by his clothing style. In ancient China, the same story applied. Chinese people first developed the idea of Hanfu (Chinese traditional clothing) during the Shang dynasty.
Back then one person’s appearance can already tell what social status he held. The outfit was unisex and the colors of the Hanfu’s were merely basic primary colors like red, yellow, and blue. Later in history these Hanfu developed into more sophisticated style clothings like Shenyi around Zhou dynasty, and gender specification came to be. Men and women wore different clothings. However, during Mao’s era, everyone wore unisex tunic uniforms again, it was seen as a political implication.
Soon after the social reform, and China’s open policy towards other countries, the clothing style changed dramatically. Dresses were introduced from western countries and they greatly influenced the fashion of Chinese people until this day. Historically, Russia also experienced similar changes China went through; correspondingly, their fashion also went through a rollercoaster ride. Despite the difference in the ancient clothing styles of the two countries, they had an astonishingly similar fashion during the communism era.
For Russia, unisex tunic uniforms were also mainstream. When the Soviet Union fell apart, Russia experienced a dramatic change that was also similar to China’s. Overall, the cultural significance of China’s clothing style is undeniable as it changed and reflected many values that Chinese people hold. In the following essay, we shall do our best to elaborate and analyze examples that represent the cultural significance of Chinese clothing style. * Overview of changes in Chinese fashion over time:
For readers that didn’t know this subject so well, the following paragraphs will explain some basic changes in China’s fashion trend. In ancient China, people’s clothings “consisted mostly of robes. While the women wore lengthy tunics that reached the ground, the men wore tunics that reached their knees. ” (Schwebius). The clothing style was simple and most have clean cuts, and “the overall characteristics of the Chinese garments can be summarized as bright colors, refined artisanship, and ornate details” (“Information”). Clothing was a show of class in ancient China. The fabric, color, and decorations on their clothing told about the wearer’s position in society;” clothing was a token for one’s social status and was seen more than just personal decoration (Bethany). “However, the advent of Mao’s regency changed the dressing style dramatically as the new social system got rid of the old gender specific clothings because Mao thought, in order for the society to move forward, we must abolish the old practices and old cultures and embrace the idea of Marxism as the new system.
In the new system, everyone was equally treated and “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” (Marx). The idea spread quickly and soon men and women began to wear what was called the “Mao suits,” which was a “tunic suit” that later became “a symbol of proletarian unity and an Eastern counterpart to the Western business suit” (Wiki, Mao). This style of clothing was unisex and was worn by both males and females. Women were treated almost like men and “In some stores saleswomen grabbed women by their breasts to determine their size. ”(Hays).
For children, or better known as the Red Guards during that specific era, they had special Red Guard suits which was mainly a green blouse and green pants accompanied by a red sleeve attachment that read “Red Guards. ” China was very conservative during that time and the Mao era was a sensitive topic to talk about even till today. Older generation often speak of this time and how a dramatic change took place after the social reform. After the reform, China initiated the open door policy, which brought in large portions of foreign investors and travellers that were interested in the mysterious oriental country.
The foreigners brought not only their money, but also their culture and, or course, fashion. Since then Chinese people started to wear more westernized clothings like jeans and T-shirts, women wore dresses and mini-skirts. As for the foreigners, they were also influenced by certain Chinese clothings like Qi Pao and Han Fu, and many new styles of clothes came to be because of that. We will elaborate this influence further in later chapters. * Compare and contrast of Russian fashion during the same period:
Most people probably have an idea of how China had shared a close relationship with Russia’s Soviet Union in the past when both countries had the common faith in Marxism. Though political similarities are easy to spot, the more direct impact we could see is how the fashion of these countries are amazingly similar yet different at the same time during the same period. Looking at your mom and dad it’s so hard to imagine how they looked like when they were young. There’s no that many photos because at that time photography was not that popular and also was expensive.
So, knowing that at the time of the Soviet Union people dressed very formal at work but after work they completely changed their work style to the outgoing one, and became very beautiful, especially women. Women’s style was called the style of a Cinderella in the period of CCCP. As we all know, fashion is like a mirror, it expresses the period of time as well as the emotional and financial status of people. For a different era there is a different clothing style. The Soviet Union is not an exception. Many experts say that during that period of time there were no fashion at all. But they say that where is the women there is the beauty.
And where is the beauty there is, of course, our majesty fashion. During the Soviet Union period hand made clothings was very popular. It was creative and women that created something themselves were saying like “look how creative I am”. So, they believed that their style was unique in a way because there was no one with the same clothes as they were. These women wanted to show their individuality and it was always successful; “Literally everybody would dream of owning a sewing machine and then the patterns of standardized garments would be shared among many and treasured for generations. (Eugenia). Despite the fact that soviet women weren’t really allowed to publicly display how charismatic they are, compared to China at the same period, they had more freedom on the selection of fashion. In contrast, Chinese women at that era weren’t allowed to wear anything other than the Mao’s suit. However, in both countries the idea of conservatism was prevailing, and that greatly restricted how people (especially women) could dress and behave. Western fashion was always very popular during the USSR, which is another difference between it and China.
Soviet Union women admired western style, so it affected the style of the Soviet Union. Women wanted to have clothes that have the same style as people had in the western area. There were no popular fashion designers at that time. For the majority of the country there were actually no fashion at all in their mind. People were not that interested in it, not to mention that “looking too fashionable was forbidden and even dangerous. ” (“Some”). But, I have to mention, that there were fashion festivals and fashion shows of popular at that time western fashion designers.
They came to the Soviet Union countries with their fashion shows, and rich people were able to buy that kind of clothes. Nowadays, there’s no Soviet Union, it collapsed many years ago. So, the fashion style also changed. Right now there’s plenty of choice in fashion industry. In Russia, for example, there are so many fashion designers that are very popular by doing their job. People like to dress nice and be in style. But, like it was before, during the Soviet Union time, people still follow the western style.
People believe that they have to have exactly the same look, and it will be successful. Having that many different kinds of clothes shows that people have different styles, they don’t look and don’t have exactly the same clothes as it was during the past, when there were no choice, and everyone looked the same with the same hair style as well as the same clothing style. Now they all look different, which means that fashion industry had developed a lot; “Since then(the 90s), fashion has taken the form of a sexual competition – just like anywhere else in the developed world. (Eugenia). Same in China, as western ideas came flooding in, people’s idea of fashion also changed to that of a sexual competition— the idea of if one is attractive enough for the opposite sex. * Influences and inspirations of ancient China’s clothing style on today’s style: Just as ancient Russian clothings had an influence on their modern fashion, Chinese HanFu and other traditional clothing also influenced today’s fashion greatly. “Today, the modern Chinese people have adopted various fashions from all over the world.
Even then, there are many designs that still draw inspiration from the ancient Chinese culture. ” (Lad). Cheongsam was a kind of ancient Chinese clothing and it is popular even till today. Many knew Cheongsam better as Qi Pao, which was “actually a one-piece dress” (Lad). Manchurian women used to wear them in the old days but now, as time passes by, it was modified and “we can see many variations of the cheongsam available, to suit the modern tastes. ” (Lad). Although most clothes that market places are selling today are western styles, if you found the right laces to go, you might still find some good old modified Chinese clothes. Aside from Qi Pao, the ancient HanFu also possesses its place in modern Chinese society as a commonly worn clothing in the suburban sides of China, where the small villages nest together and where the farmers live. “Today, most Han Chinese wear Western-style clothing in everyday life,” the fashion became simple and at the same time complicated as people start to develop senses of beauty and finally getting lose from the great loop of “conservatism. “Some urban residents in China wear modified or modernized traditional clothing on some occasions, while many in the countryside still use distinctive peasant dress (though not necessarily identical with classical Hanfu). ” (Wiki, Han). * Conclusion: As the discussion above suggests, Chinese fashion experienced a dramatic change and most of these changes are results of historical movements. Since the origins of human society had always been related to the conditions of humans and their behaviors, it won’t be hard to understand why such an inessential factor like clothing and fashion could mean more than just vanity and decoration.
Social status, for one, has always been an important part of a historian’s research; and fashion reflects social status. Ancient China would be a perfect example of a fundamental social hierarchy formed by various factors such as fashion. By comparing Mao’s China to the USSR, we could easily see the similarities and the differences in these two countries’ fashion. The prevailing of Marxism made the social system relatively easier to handle but at the same time sacrificed people’s freedom of fighting for themselves. Narcissism was not a virtue; therefore, people would refrain from wearing eye-catching clothes and overly-attractive clothings.
Soon after that era, when China opened its doors to the rest of the world, people’s idea of clothing changed dramatically to meet the new mainstream fashion— the western style. The metamorphosis took a long time, but its results are impressing as we see a significant change in Chinese value of traditional culture and western culture. In the end, what we wear , above all, is the one most related to our past, our future, and what we are now; that is why clothings are culturally significant in China, and in the rest of the world. * Sources: Bethany. “Ancient Chinese Clothing”. Solomon. n. d. lt;http://www. solomon. cps. k12. il. us/roeschleyindex. html> Eugenia. “Fashion in the USSR. DIY”. Real USSR. June 26, 2010. <http://www. realussr. com/ussr/fashion-in-the-ussr-diy/> Hays, Jeffrey. “Clothes in China”. Facts and Details. Apr 2010. <http://factsanddetails. com/china. php? itemid=135&catid=11&subcatid=75> “Information on Traditional Chinese Clothing”. Chine Info Online. n. d. <http://www. chinainfoonline. com/Chinese_Clothing. htm> Lad, Kashmira. “Ancient Chinese Clothing”. Buzzle. com. n. d. <http://www. buzzle. com/articles/ancient-chinese-clothing. tml> Marx, Karl. “From each…his needs”. BrainyQuote. n. d. <http://www. brainyquote. com/quotes/quotes/k/karlmarx136396. html> Schwebius, Christopher. “Ancient Chinese Clothing”. ChinatownConnection. com. n. d. <http://www. chinatownconnection. com/ancient-chinese-clothing. htm> “Some Soviet Fashion”. English Russia. n. d. <http://englishrussia. com/index. php/2007/09/25/some-soviet-fashion/> Wikipedia. “Han Chinese Clothing”. <http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Han_Chinese_clothing> Wikipedia. “Mao Suit”. <http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Mao_suit>