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HSC outcomes
Evolution and revolution: Chinese dress 1700s-1990s

Chinese dress in the Qing dynasty
The Republican period: modernising Chinese dress
Mao suit
The Cultural Revolution: the Four Olds
Chinese contemporary designers
Australian designers, Eastern influence
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Apricot-yellow, semi-formal dragon robe (jifu)
Apricot-yellow, semi-formal dragon robe (jifu), silk and gold-wrapped thread embroidery on gauze weave silk, made in China in the 1800s.Powerhouse Museum collection. Purchased with funds given by Ken and Yasuko Myer, 1989. Photo by Penelope Clay.

As in many cultures, dress was a way of distinguishing a person's position in Chinese society. While this was more apparent prior to and including the 19th century there is still evidence of it today.

The cheungsam is regarded by many as the classic national dress for women. While its origins may be seen in the court garments of the Qing dynasty another garment - the Mao suit - was also for a time the national dress. The Mao suit reflected major political change and had as its origins military dress.

Contemporary designers both within China and abroad are influenced by China's rich textile history. The work of Chinese designers today reflects aspects of the past as well as embracing new ideas.

The exhibition Evolution and revolution: Chinese dress 1700s-1990s was presented in 1997, it coincided with a significant event in Chinese history, the hand over of Hong Kong to China by the British.

Note on Chinese language
The pinyin system of romanising Mandarin Chinese has been followed with the exception of commonly accepted local place names such as Peking instead of Beijing and Canton instead of Guangzhou; and Cantonese terms, such as cheungsam, which is used in preference to the Mandarin qipao… To assist the reader with pronouncing Chinese names and terms the following guide is provided.

c = ts (caifeng = ts'aifeng); q = ch (Qing = Ch'ing); x = sh (xuesheng fu = shüeh sheng fu)

For pronunciation of Chinese terms see the glossary.

Department of Education and Training
Case studies developed by the Professional Support and Curriculum Directorate and supported by the Multicultural Programs Unit of the NSW Department of Education and Training in partnership with the Powerhouse Museum
Powerhouse Museum