Exploring Chinese Fashion Trends in the 1800s: A Glimpse into Historical Style

Exploring Chinese Fashion Trends in the 1800s: A Glimpse into Historical Style


Chinese fashion has always been steeped in rich cultural traditions, influenced by various dynasties and societal norms. The 1800s marked a significant period of transformation in Chinese society, which was also manifested through the evolution of fashion trends. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the fashion styles prevalent during this era, as well as shed light on the societal influences and cultural implications associated with these trends.

1. The Qing Dynasty and the Manchu Influence

During the 1800s, China was under the rule of the Qing Dynasty, which was established by the semi-nomadic Manchu people. The fashion trends during this period largely reflected the distinctive Manchu style, distinguishing it from the attire of other ethnic groups in China. The Manchu influence on Chinese fashion was particularly evident in the garments worn by both men and women.

1.1 Men’s Fashion Trends

Men during the Qing Dynasty typically wore robes known as “changpao,” which were long and loose-fitting. These robes featured narrow sleeves and were often made from silk or other luxurious fabrics. Wealthy men would further adorn their robes with intricate embroidery, representing social status and wealth. Another notable feature of men’s fashion during this period was the “queue,” a hairstyle mandated by the Qing authorities, which required men to wear their hair in a long, braided ponytail.

1.2 Women’s Fashion Trends

The traditional Chinese dress, known as “qipao” or “cheongsam,” evolved during the Qing Dynasty, becoming an epitome of Chinese women’s fashion. Initially introduced as a Manchu garment, it saw widespread adoption among the Han Chinese women during this era. The qipao was a figure-hugging dress, featuring a high collar and side slits. It was typically made from silk and embellished with intricate embroidered patterns, depicting prosperity and happiness.

2. Social and Cultural Influences

The fashion trends of the 1800s in China were not merely about aesthetics but carried profound social and cultural meanings.

2.1 Symbol of Social Status

In Chinese society, fashion has long been associated with social status. During the Qing Dynasty, the sumptuary laws were in effect, regulating the types of clothing individuals could wear. The color and fabric of one’s garments directly correlated with their social rank. Bright colors and luxurious fabrics were reserved for the nobility and high-ranking officials, while commoners were restricted to wearing simpler and more subdued attire.

2.2 Reflection of Confucian Values

Confucianism played a significant role in shaping Chinese society during this period. Traditional Chinese attire often adhered to Confucian principles of modesty and propriety. The loose-fitting robes worn by men reflected the belief in maintaining harmony and humility, whereas the form-fitting qipaos worn by women symbolized both femininity and modesty.

3. Evolution of Chinese Fashion Trends in the 1800s

Despite the strong influence of the Qing Dynasty, the fashion trends of the 1800s witnessed some evolutionary changes over time.

3.1 Western Influence

The arrival of Western traders and missionaries in China during the 19th century brought exposure to Western fashion and clothing styles. The cross-cultural interactions compelled a fusion of Chinese and Western aesthetic elements. This led to the emergence of Chinese garments incorporating Western-style elements, such as button-up collars and fitted silhouettes.

3.2 Revival of Traditional Elements

Towards the latter half of the 1800s, as a response to Western influence, there was a revival of traditional Chinese fashion elements. This period witnessed a resurgence in the popularity of traditional textiles, colors, and patterns. Increased pride in Chinese cultural heritage led to a renewed appreciation for historical clothing styles.


Q1. How did societal norms shape the fashion trends during the 1800s in China?

Societal norms played a crucial role in determining the fashion trends of this era. Sumptuary laws regulated clothing choices based on social status, while Confucian values influenced the modesty and propriety of attire.

Q2. Were there any gender-specific fashion trends during this era?

Yes, men typically wore changpaos, while women donned qipaos. These garments had distinct characteristics and reflected the societal expectations and roles assigned to each gender.

Q3. How did Western influence impact Chinese fashion during the 1800s?

The arrival of Western traders and missionaries brought exposure to Western fashion, leading to the incorporation of Western-style elements in Chinese clothing. This nascent fusion marked a significant change in Chinese fashion trends.

Q4. Did Chinese fashion undergo any revival or resurgence during this period?

Yes, towards the latter half of the 1800s, there was a renewed appreciation for traditional Chinese clothing styles. This period witnessed a revival of traditional elements, reflecting a pride in cultural heritage.


The 1800s showcased a unique and transformative period in Chinese fashion history. The influence of the Qing Dynasty, societal norms, and cross-cultural interactions all contributed to the evolution of fashion trends during this era. By exploring and understanding the fashion trends of the past, we can gain valuable insights into the historical style that has shaped contemporary Chinese fashion.