It’s not a kimono!

Why the hanfu is back in style

It’s not a kimono!

Shang Dynasty chic: the hanfu

Nostalgia is big business. Everywhere you look, it seems that some era or another is being resuscitated and relived – fashion items, music trends, toys, and cars are notable examples.

In China the old also seems to be new again, with hanfu – traditional Chinese clothing – making the latest comeback.

At first glance, it’s hard to tell hanfu from the Japanese kimono or Korean hanbok. Not surprisingly, as north Asian patriotism continues to run high, some have argued that the kimono and hanbok were in fact influenced by Chinese hanfu. Although most historians are split on the date of the hanfu’s origins, most seem to think that it hails from the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC to 1000 BC).

Today, many Chinese are eager to reconnect with their roots and women around the country seem to want to add hanfu to their wardrobes.

According to the Yangtze Evening Post, an online shop based in Nanjing that makes the traditional Chinese clothing is busier than ever; many customers have to wait up to several months for their traditional Chinese dress to arrive. Xiao Xiong, one of the owners, told the paper that demand for hanfu has been overwhelming. Since the process of creating hanfu is a laborious and time-consuming one, the shop has been charging around Rmb1,000 ($146) and makes about 20 of them per month.

In terms of traditional Chinese costume, most western audiences are more likely to be aware of the qipao, a more tightfitting dress.

It turns out that the hanfu is lesser known amongst some locals too.

A few years ago, a store in Beijing received a complaint for displaying several hanfu gowns from the Qin Dynasty in the window. An ill-informed shopper, confusing hanfu with the Japanese kimono, criticised the shop for being unpatriotic.

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