Up Timeline and Maps


Clothing may seem like a mundane part of our everyday lives. Yet in every culture, clothing is one of the most powerful and ubiquitous forms of visual communication. By using visual clues provided by clothing, people quickly 'place' each other, making guesses about the gender, social status, occupation, ethnic or national identity, and so on of those they encounter. By manipulating the same sets of signals, people can declare their individuality, indicate their beliefs, or signify their membership within various groups through how they dress. 


At any given time and place there are  conventional ways of expressing meaning through one's clothing, but over time these conventions change in response to changed political circumstances, technology, and fashion. This unit will explore the role clothing has played within Chinese culture.  


In China, by Ming and Qing times, clothing indicated not only differences in class and gender, but also ethnicity, as the two major ethnic groups, Han Chinese and Manchu, wore distinct clothes. This unit will begin by looking at these traditional patterns, then consider how the great social and political changes of the twentieth century altered this system.

As you view the images in this unit, keep in mind the following questions:


How much did materials used to make clothing influence how clothes looked?  

What have been the features of Chinese dress that allowed people to place each other according to status, wealth, gender, ethnicity, and political commitments?  How have these changed over time?

How did notions of modesty relate to shifts in fashion for women?  

Are there any connections between the aesthetic principles found in Chinese clothing and those found in Chinese art?





Traditional Patterns


20th Century Changes