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Three Types of Chinese Clothing

Traditional Chinese clothing reflects the Chinese people’s ancient way of life. It is an outward expression of elegance as well as a reflection of internal symbolism. Chinese culture was very sophisticated in many ways. It brought us paper, gunpowder and beautiful materials. There was a complete system of color and contrast in the clothing worn. The distinctive designs made the clothing very beautiful, and ancient Chinese clothing styles are sometimes worn today for formal occasions. The three main types of traditional Chinese clothing are the pien-fu, the ch'ang-p'ao, or long robe, and the shen-i. These dresses have wide and voluminous sleeves, and the fitting of these dresses is very loose.Traditional Chinese Clothing

1. The pien-fu
The pien-fu is actual more of a ceremonial costume of two pieces. Its top is very like a tunic. It goes to about the knees. The rest of the outfit is a second piece that is like a skirt for women or pants for men. This portion goes to the ankles. A pien is a cylindrical ceremonial cap. Typical of these three types of clothing, besides their wide cut and voluminous sleeves, were a design utilizing mainly straight lines, and a loose fit forming natural folds, regardless of whether the garment was allowed to hang straight or was bound with a sash at the waist.

2. The shenyi
The shenyi is a cross between the pienfu and changpao. The skirt or trousers and tunic are stitched together to make it a one-piece dress. Another form of one-piece long dress is cheongsam or qipao for females, which has a high neck closed with a collar and is buttoned on the right side. It is loose from the chest and fitted from waist to enhance the beauty of a woman's body. The shen-i is a combination of the two. There are two portions of this type of ancient Chinese clothing, but the tunic and the skirt (or pants) are sewn together, making it basically a one piece garment. This is also the most widely worn of the three.

3. Changpao
Changpao is a one-piece cloth, which broadens from the shoulders all the way to the heels. The pienfu is an early two-piece ceremonial dress, which has a tunic top extending to the knees and trousers or skirt stretching to the ankles. The ch'ang-p'ao is ancient Chinese clothing that is meant to cover the entire body, from the shoulders all the down to the floor, covering the heels. It is a garment made of one piece of material.

Chinese clothing is distinguished by a loose fit and very large sleeves, no matter which of three types of garment it was. The design and structure of the clothing was very simple and plain. And because of their relatively plain design and structure, embroidered edgings, decorated bands, draped cloth or silks, embellishment on the shoulders, and sashes were often added as ornamentation. These decorative bands, richly varied embroidered designs came to be one of the unique features of traditional Chinese dress.