Chinese and Japanese Ancient Clothing
The Chinese were always a fashionable race and Chinese ancient clothing was largely influenced by all the dynasties which ruled it. The Han Chinese clothing or the Hanfu has the longest history of clothes worn. The Hanfu rules of dressing were followed strictly as a mark of respect for the culture. On the other hand, ancient Japanese clothing kept changing with every dynasty that ruled Japan. Since the Kimono is a national dress, it has always been mistaken for very ancient clothing worn by the Japanese people which is incorrect.
The basic design of the Ancient Chinese clothing Hanfu was largely developed during the Shang Dynasty. The Shang had two basic styles – the Yi which was the coat worn on top and the Shang whichwas the skirt worn beneath it. Buttons on any ancient Chinese clothing was substituted by a Sash. The clothing was in warm tones. The Zhou dynasty in western China varied in the sleeves being narrow as well as broad. The length of the skirt varied from knee length to the ankle and the different sizes and styles created a distinction between the people who wore them. Ancient Chinese clothing used minimal stitching on the garment and the use of embroidery and silk sashes to design the dresses.
Japanese ancient clothing was majorly influenced by Chinese clothing. Vigorous trade between Japan and its continental neighbors brought in Chinese dresses and styles into Japan during the Han Dynasty. The Tang styles and Sui dynasty from China influenced clothing in Japan while it was developing from a collection of loose clans to an Empire. All robes in Japan were to be worn from left to right just like the Chinese. Right to left was considered barbaric in China and the ‘left over right’ became the conventional rule of wearing a Kimono ever since. During the Heian period (894 specifically), Chinese influence began dying out and Chinese characters began being abbreviated in Japanese script. The Heian court was taken to sensitivity of art and subtle beauty and wardrobe became much more detailed. Colors, combinations and fabric textures changed and separated themselves from Chinese influence.
After the Heian period, the Kamakura period saw a number of clashes and war clans within Japan. The ancient Japanese clothing soon underwent another change and now clothes became more functional. The number of layers and broad sleeved clothes were shunned for more usable clothing. Soon the imperial land split into a southern and northern court and these people’s lives got influenced by the soft court life. Fights resumed and the gradual decadence is obvious in the elaborate dresses of the period. Women had stopped wearing the Hakama and the robes were lengthened to ankle level. Veils and robes over the head were some strange ways experimented and worn during this time.
Japanese ancient clothing was mainly robes and most of the patterns and designs were religious and auspicious. Dragons were printed with nine yellow dragons and five cloud patterns. These heavily embroidered robes were won by the emperors and were auspicious for the wearer. The Cheongsam was another one piece dress adorned by ancient Chinese women. It had a high neck with a closed collar and short or medium sleeves. Buttoned on sides with a fitted waist, it had slits going up from the sides and complemented their figures.