Modern Chinese folk clothing usually has a standing collar or so-called “Mandarin collar”. But this style wasn’t always present in China’s national costume. For centuries, the Chinese wore outfits with crossed collars, which transformed into standing collars with time. How and when did it happen? And what are the difficulties of wearing such a collar? – you won’t believe it, but there are some! Read about it below. Also, there’s a fine tutorial on Ming dynasty lady’s costume wearing.
The Ming dynasty outfit has a standing collar, also called a “Mandarin collar”. Most people think the standing collar derived from Qing dynasty dress known as the “cheongsam” or “qipao”. But it was actually originally invented and passed down from the Ming dynasty, the dynasty before the Qing dynasty. It is a part of the hanfu system that was later on adapted into Manchurian dresses. And today it is widely known in the world as the Mandarin collar and recognized as one of the most distinctive features of Chinese clothing.
History of the standing collar
Here is a Ming dynasty painting. Almost every woman and child is wearing an outfit with the crossed collar. It shows how popular this style was at the time. However, when we look more closely at the painting, we can find a little button right in the center of their crossed collars.
How come that so very popular crossed collar was replaced by the Mandarin collar?
The easiest way to understand how clothing styles changed during centuries is to study the portraits of all Ming dynasty empresses.
At first, women wore costumes with a crossed collar.
Later, one of the empresses is portrayed with another style of collar – a vertical line appears in the middle of her collar, but without any buttons.
The next empress is already sporting a standing collar with 2 buttons. This fashion stays the same for some time.
But the last empress of the Ming dynasty is portrayed in an attire of a different design. Her clothing style has changed quite a bit from the previous ones. But she still wears a standing collar.
Although the empresses’ wardrobe cannot define the clothing style of the whole nation, it’s representative of the trend.
By the late Ming dynasty, the standing collar had become staple for women’s wardrobe.
It was naturally passed down to the Qing dynasty. During the Qing dynasty, Han women continued to wear the Ming dynasty clothing style, while Manchurian women wore Manchurian dresses. The two clothing styles co-existed together for several hundred years.
But eventually, the Manchurian dresses went from having no collar to adding false collars to finally incorporating the Ming dynasty standing collar.
By the time of the late Qing dynasty, standing collars had evolved into the modern Mandarin collars, which are commonly seen in Chinese dramas.
They are a symbolic element of Chinese clothes today.
How to wear? Ming dynasty lady’s outfit
In this period, Chinese ladies usually wore pleated skirts. This type of skirt has a hole in the middle of its waist to tie it properly.
After wrapping it halfway around the body, the ribbon is inserted through the hole. The remaining skirt is wrapped around the body and the ribbon is tied at the front.
This is the traditional jacket with a standing collar.
This style is found on many archaeological relics.
It has narrow sleeves. There is a middle seam on the back and 4 sets of metal buttons in the front + additional 2 sets on the collar. When the jacket is put on, it is easier to work on the buttons that are on the body first and button the collar last (that’s because they are harder to do).
Some people think that standing collars are not the most flattering thing on people with short necks. On the contrary, a well-tailored standing collar will make the neck appear longer.
The back of the collar is slightly higher than the front, making it more comfortable for the wearer.
Last but not least – a long necklace is added.