Ancient China Fashion
The NTDTV Chinese New Year Spectacular has entered its fourth season. Its theme of Myths and Legends weaves a tale of the proverbial battle between good and evil through theatre, music and dance.
The Spectacular has drawn a lot of attention in recent years for its theatrical costumes and themes revolving around ancient times; inspiring and impressing audiences of all ages with its natural style and bright presentation. Each character’s appearance is vividly portrayed and expressed through their costume.
Modern design has a theory for every detail, including color balancing and dynamics. Ancient people did not have such theories. Beauty and virtue were the general principles of their designs. As long as it looks comfortable and harmonious then it is acceptable. The design group for the NTDTV Spectacular applied modern esthetics to recover and recreate the history. They further emphasized the balancing of harmony and contrast based on beauty.
These costumes were designed strictly according to the records in ancient books and paintings to re-display the Chinese traditional clothing and culture as accurately as possible to the audience. One reference was The History of Chinese Clothing. The book was compiled from the research of archaeological findings by a group of senior scholars of Shanghai Universities and Colleges.
A more direct source of blueprints was the frescoes in the Dunhuang cave, a treasure house of Chinese culture. All the way from the Southern and Northern Dynasties to the Tang Dynasty, paintings were added in each historical period and much of the clothing found on the characters was representative of the typical clothing in each time period. Besides Dunhuang, the designs were also referenced from sculptures, the jade carvings and household utensils from ancient times.
In the period just before the Tang Dynasty, people’s lives were very turbulent, most notably due to the wars during the Southern and Northern Dynasties. This is expressed through the flowers on the clothing, which looked relatively rough.
During the Tang Dynasty, the economy was good and society was stable. The flowers on the clothing were full, magnificent, and serene; the decorative patterns exuded elegance. Garments with big sleeves were most common during the Tang Dynasty. The outer garments were transparent, and the inner garments carried a low neckline. The hairstyles were varied; a woman’s hair could drag along the ground if not combed. The Tang Dynasty’s poetry and literature were full of imagination and the Chinese people were also very broadminded. Their clothing reflected this by being very open and broad. The clothing also absorbed elements from other cultures through frequent contact with the regions in the west, India and other Asian countries; Persian designs were also very popular.
Ancient clothing was not limited to only a few styles for each period. The big sleeves, for example, changed both in detail and color from the golden age of the Tang to the late Tang. The design must take into account the specific point in history. The size of the sleeve is also designed according to the era, with base colors designed from the most original findings.
The linings of the costumes were mostly from China in order to make things authentic, as one could tell with a glance that it was a foreign product if linings from other countries were used. The designers for the Spectacular are presenting the beauty of the Chinese traditional culture found within the Chinese traditional clothing.
The costume designers follow a principle: to make something responsible for and representative of society while respecting legitimate culture instead of something to stimulate the senses. Therefore, the designs must be in accordance with what is recorded from history. Everything from the hairstyles to the hats were all designed based on historical data throughout the entire artistic process.
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