Contact us

Reporting from:

Han Women's Style

To ensure the continuity of the Manchu dynasty, every ethnic Chinese male was obliged by imperial edict to shave his forehead and wear a queue in the traditional Manchu style as an act of allegiance to the conquerors. However, Han women were not required to conform to this rule. They were permitted to wear their own traditional garments: a coat with skirts.

On formal occasions, Han women wore a half length coat or jacket accompanied by trousers or leggings worn underneath. They paired a panel skirt that wrapped similarly to an apron. Han working women often wore trousers without skirts, as did unmarried women. Many brides never experience skirts before their wedding day at this time.

Han Woman's Light Blue Coat

This light blue silk coat is embroidered with motifs of vases with flowers from all seasons and multi-seeded fruits. It is speculated that this may be a wedding ensemble.

Han Woman's Pink Coat, Late Qing Dynasty (1840-1911)

This is a very typical Han woman's coat. It was worn with a panel skirt or trousers. There are many images of this style in old photographs, such as the examples on the wall to the right of the coat.

Han Woman's Rainbow-Colored Festive Skirt, Late Qing Dynasty (1840-1911)

Chinese women's rainbow-colored festive skirts with side seams made up of narrow panels of fabrics were very popular during the nineteenth century. Many of them are decorated with lucky symbols commonly worn at weddings or other formal occasions. This skirt has four main panels with a different motif from Chinese theatrical stories on each one.

Woman's Black Silk Embroidered Jacket (Gua), Late Qing Dynasty (1840-1911)

This half-length black silk embroidered jacket is very exquisite. The collar, cuffs, center front, and hem are all bordered in off-white silk with embroidered small cranes in roundels. Eight cranes in flower roundels on the body are the classical design in Qing women's costume. Each cuff carries nineteen butterflies, all in harmonious colors. Han women usually wore this type of jacket as we see in old photographs from the late Qing dynasty.

Women's Gold Jacket, Late Qing Dynasty (1840-1911)

This silk jacket is embroidered with beautiful scenes of tea houses and floral scenes throughout the body section. Eighteen human figures decorate the golden boarders on the collar, cuffs, and hem. Although the cuffs are made in pairs, they did not always carry identical designs.

Women's Dark Blue Jacket, Late Qing Dynasty (1840-1911)

This navy blue silk jacket carries eight embroidered phoenix-tailed butterflies dancing among flowers from every season. The hem edge is embroidered with motifs of "antiques," a very traditional Chinese design.

Women's blue jacket, Late Qing dynasty (1840-1911)

This silk jacket was worn in the warm season. There are flowers, such as the winter plum and peony, depicted on the blue monochrome woven silk. The ends of the sleeves are decorated with black silk edging and floral braiding.

Cloud Collar, Late Qing Dynasty (1840-1911)

Women's collars were often made independently of a garment. They were always edged with black satin ribbon or bordered in brocade. They were cloud-shaped or pointed and made of tapestry weave or embroidered silk. During the Qing Dynasty, collars were especially favored by young women and made by hand. Finer collars took six to twelve months to complete. The motifs in this collar are very classic: flowers, butterflies with phoenix tails, and multi-seeded fruits. Blue shade embroidery, also called san-lan embroidery, was very popular in this period.

Women's Cloud Collar, Late Qing Dynasty (1840-1911)

This hand embroidered cloud collar features a human figure at each corner.

Sleeve Band of a Woman's Jacket or Robe, Late Qing Dynasty (1840-1911)

This silk band was a piece to be attached to a jacket or robe. These types of bands dramatically contrasted the garment they were attached to in order to symbolically create the necessary balance of life through the guiding principle of yin and yang. The vase, fruit, flower, and story motifs embroidered on the bands were always related to good wishes

Woman's Yellow Brocade Panel Skirt, Date Unknown

The motif on the front panel depicts many children, traditionally representing hope for a large family. Five yellow phoenixes are arranged on either side, symbolizing higher class.

Chinese Children's Costume, Before 1921

This children’s ensemble was bought in China by Mr. Edwin Embree, who was an official of the Rockefeller foundation, for his two-year-old daughter Catherine in 1921. She worn it in Hawaii, a common practice at the time.

These garments were very traditional in China. Children’s garments replicated the prevailing fabric cut and design of adults, but the colors were much brighter. Most of a child’s wardrobe was made at home.

Woman's Red Panel Skirt Qing Dynasty, Tongzhi Reign (1867)

The middle panel of this skirt features Beijing style embroidery with flowers and butterflies on a red satin ground.

Han Chinese Woman’s Quasi-Official Vest (Xiapei), Late 19th Century

In the Qing Dynasty, wives were permitted to wear the same rank badges as their husbands. The rank badges are called buzi. They were sewn on a long, embroidered sleeveless vest known as a Xiapei and worn to weddings and similarly auspicious private celebrations. However, civilian official's wives were rarely invited to court.

This vest belonged to someone of audit officer rank according to the mandarin square xiezhi, a legendary creature in Chinese mythology.

One Shoe in a Pair of Han Woman’s Bound Foot Shoes, Late Qing Dynasty (1840-1911)

This tiny, embroidered silk shoe was for a Han woman. There was a very old tradition of binding the feet of upper class Han women starting when they were infants. The feet were bound in order to deform their growth. This hideous process also involved breaking the bones of young girls’ feet at the age of about six and then tightly bandaging them to force them to grow into deformed “lily-like” shapes. Small feet were a mark of status within Chinese society. Their style of walking was a result of trying to balance themselves on their tiny, crippled “lotus bud” feet like the Chinese poets describing “waving of the willow”.

Women’s Embroidered Dark Blue Gauze Panel Skirt, Late Qing Dynasty (1840-1911)

This summer skirt is embroidered with clear and simple flowers and bats. Bats were symbols of happiness.