Evidence from Photographs

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Photographs, available in some abundance beginning in the 1870s, allow us to see many features of Chinese dress not very well revealed from paintings, including the dress of people of lower social levels.  

Photographs also allow us to see some of the ethnic distinctions in dress and adornment that resulted from the Manchu conquest in 1644.  The most notable change in personal appearance was the requirement that men shave the front of their heads and wear the rest of their hair in a braid, in the Manchu fashion.  Although this tended to blur visible distinctions between Chinese and Manchus, in other ways this ethnic distinction was made visible.  Manchu women, for instance, were not allowed to bind their feet the way Chinese women did.  Although both Manchu men and women were encouraged to wear Manchu dress, rather than adopt Chinese fashions, over time more and more were seen in dress indistinguishable from what Chinese of their class wore.