Contact us

Reporting from:

Eastern and Western Intersection of Influence

The communication between east and west began thousands of years ago through trade in goods such as porcelain, silk, tea, and furniture among other items. The word Chinoiserie was the French word for goods in the Chinese style. The term Chinoiserie was first used in the eighteenth century. However, exposure to Chinese style did not really begin at that time.

In the 1920s, Chinese elements became very popular and reached a peak. We can see many imported examples of Chinese dress and new designs exhibiting Chinoiserie around that time and after.

Purple Qipao, China, Early 20th c.

Purple satin qipao, also known as a cheongsam, features monochromatic embroidery, frog closures, side slits, and piping details. This is a more modern, fitted shape that could have been worn by either a Chinese or Western woman.

Green Qipao, China, 1935

This chartreuse brocade cheongsam is decorated with pin stripes of gold metallic thread. The has a beautiful shiny pink damask lining underneath. It also features turquoise piping, frog closures, and deep side slits. This is a more typical and traditional shape for a cheongsam compared to the purple qipao above. This cheongsam was purchased by the donor during a visit to China in 1935.

Blue Dress with an Embroidered Chinese Motif, Europe or the United States, 1920s

The drop-waist, short sleeves, bateau neck, and loosely fitted skirt and bodice on this dress shows it is a Western 1920's design. The machine embroidered birds and flowers and the black border are inspired by traditional Chinese motifs and designs. The edges of the dress have openings similar to a coat.

Han Chinese Coat, Early 20th century

Imperial imagery was not officially sanctioned when depicted on Han Chinese garments that ordinary people wore. However, the dragon pattern, as seen on this coat, hints to the custom of referring to a bride as an “empress for the day.” Han wedding clothes were always red, which gives reason to believe that this blue coat was probably designed for a western market.

Evening dress in Chinese Brocade, Canada, 1967

This dress was designed by Beate Ziegert at Jac-Ann Juniors in Toronto, Canada. Jac-Ann Juniors was a ready-to-wear manufacturer of mid-priced women's wear in 1967. This dress was constructed by a sample maker at Jac-Ann Juniors. It is fully underlined, a common finding in dresses from the 1950s and 1960s in the west for better quality apparel. The textile is typical of Chinese imports to North America at the time, but the dress is constructed in a western style. Beate Ziegert wore this dress to the wedding of the daughter of the owner of Jac-Ann Junior.

Woman's Purple suit, Shanghai, China, Early 1960s

This suit includes four items: a coat, a vest, a long skirt and a short skirt. It is made of a purple jacquard fabric with designs of dragons in roundels and a cloud pattern occupying the background. This suit was made in Shanghai, but it was sold in San Francisco, California. This unique example shows the direct connection between the East and the West pertaining to traditional Chinese culture and styles.

Woman's white full-length robe with blue and white borders, China, Late 19th century or early 20th century

Although this garment has blue borders, the predominant color is white. White is an uncommon color for clothing in China because it represented sadness or remembrance of the deceased. It was only used very carefully in Chinese costume. However, in western countries white had no such connotation, and so this garment was probably made for export.

White Dressing Gown, Early 20th Century

This evening gown features the Chinese dragon motif. It was likely made for the western market, as the use of the the dragon and the layout of the design on white ground suits western but not Chinese taste.

White Linen Suit, 1914

This white linen three-piece suit consists of a bodice, skirt, and jacket. The bodice has a large shawl with a collar edged in coarse lace. The white floral embroidery seems to have been done after the garments were cut and sewn, as the embroidery continues over the seams in some places. This gives reason to believe that this is an early example of clothing cut and sewn to order from China in a western style. The embroidery appears to be Chinese work in cotton on linen or ramie.

Woman’s White Robe, Early 20th Century

This white Chinese silk robe has a center front opening, the basic Han form, with gold buttons. The decorations are traditional Chinese motifs, including nine irregular dragons, five phoenixes in roundels, and clouds. The cloud motifs are in white and gold embroidery. However, because this coat is entirely white, and white is the color of misfortune in Chinese iconography, this coat was almost certainly made for export.

Shawl, 1920s

Shawls of this type were typical Chinese imports to America and Europe from the early nineteenth century until the 1930s. They were particularly popular in the 1920s as an accessory. In the nineteenth century, they tended to be monochromatic and in pale colors. The bright colors in this example identify it as fitting into the style of the art deco period.