Since its inception, the Hanfu movement has strived to differentiate the flowing robes of the Han Chinese with the vestimentary products of the Qing Empire as totally different concepts. Yet, when we talk of the greatest feature of Qing and post-Qing Chinese clothing – the Mandarin standup collar – we cannot avoid that this is in fact a Han Chinese creation. Given the popular notion of Han female garb left unchanged from the “Ten exceptions” in the Queue Order, is there ultimately really a difference among Hanfu collars and Manchu-Qing collars?
To understand the evolution of the standup collar, let us look at the origins of Manchu clothing design: Collars that wrap around the neck are non-existant, and to protect the neck, scarves or separate collars are added. Han designs are differentiated from Manchu designs by maintaining an attached collar on tops for women, but due to the differences in collar shape, the short collar design in Hanfu was the only viable solution to Qing designs.
In contrast to the rounded Mandarin collars from the Qing to the present time, Hanfu standup collars insist on metal locks, wipe across the neck without any rounded corners, and when laid flat, the collar reverts to a shortened cross-collar piece, and gives generous room for the neck because of extra space given by the metal locks holding the collar back open rather than pulling it together.
Fast forward to today: Although now we know that the standup collar is not a Manchu innovation but a Chinese one, there is still some reservation by the Hanfu circle about wearing this design in the promotion of Hanfu. As an ‘alternative’ design that only existed in the final days of the Ming, some consider the collar design as ‘period dress’, while others consider it as being too different from conventional Hanfu collar archetypes and should be avoided to prevent confusion to outsiders who have little idea about the clothing. Nonetheless, the standup collar long Ao has a dedicated support base among female Hanfu wearers as winter fashion, and they often boast of delicate gold or silver embroidery, lavish brocades, and fancy metal snaplocks. Following Ming conventions, this Ao is considered casual (or sharp/’posh’ casual) and is not worn as the outermost layer except for display purposes.
Now that we see that the standup collar is a byproduct of the Chinese cross-collar, how is a piece actually produced? It is not much different in construction from a Ru or Ao top as taught in previous tutorials, but with a shorter collar piece. Because of the metal locks, the natural curve of the top edge does deform a little in the wearing of the piece, but the construction of the piece should not make adjustments because of it. Below is an illustrated guide to the construction of the standup collar top.
TL Note: A lot of the techniques mentioned here are highly improvisational, and shows how rough estimations play a role in the making of casual pieces. For more precise methods, please also check out the other tutorials by Hu Jingming on proper measurement and cutting techniques.
The author also posted many pictures of her cats — please visit the original post for their pictures.
Making the standup-collar Ao is not that much different from a cross-collared Ao. Let’s start with the tools: Fabric, pattern paper, straight and curved rulers, measuring tape, and chalk.
Measuring and cutting (and slacking)
For this demonstration, I have skipped over making separate panels for sleeves and lapel extensions. I have drawn a line for the back seam, and will simply sew that up without cutting the pieces apart first. (You’re just lazy!) Taking the curve, measure and mark with chalk the curves used for the collar and bottom hem – the curved ruler is absolutely beautiful and essential for this here. Then, connect the rest of the essential seams with the straightedge.
The sleeves – Along with the 2 back panels, that makes 4 parts of equal width. As long as it fits [ie. all 4 panels combined equate or a little over total armspan], feel free to improvise on the width of each panel.
Note that even the “straight” part of the bottom seam on the sleeve is drawn with the curve as well (fig. 2.3), as it is not absolutely straight. As for the curve itself, I freehanded on that one – no pressure from one who has drawn countless spheres…[TL note: Refer to Hu Jingming's tutorial on curve calculations for a more precise fit.]
For the extension panel (fig. 2.4), take a piece of fabric equal to the maximum width of the body piece, and draw the continuation of the collar curve on it. However, don’t use this technique if you want a more curved collar profile, this might not work!
For reference on the angles: The distance from the end of the lapel near the collar to the side seam is 6 cm, while the distance from the corner of the lapel to the bottom of the side seam is 2cm.
Now to sew it all up: Start with the back and front seams, then the end of the sleeve, and finally the sleeve and side seams. Remember to suture all edges, or at least wrap them in if you don’t have that feature on your sewing machine.
You will need 6 strips of fabric to make 3 pairs of tying sashes. Sew it up as pictured (fig. 3.2) and push the shut end in with a pencil or pen until you can pull it inside-out from the other end. Remember to attach the sashes so that it sticks out on the right side of the clothing! [TL Note: 1 left armpit inside, 1 right lapel; 2 outside under right armpit, 2 on left lapel.] Remember to iron the sashes before applying them onto the clothing.
The key to making quality clothing – wrap in all your edges neatly, and iron, iron, iron!
The collar should be a horizontal strip, reaching from one front seam to the other front seam, around the back of the neck. Make sure to line the collar inside with a stiff lining, as shown being ironed on here. Then, fold the collar’s excess fabric in, and iron again. Make sure that one side is just slightly wider than the other, as this will be crucial in sewing it on neatly without showing seamlines. The thinner (shorter) side is the visible ‘outside’ , and is sewn on first.
After sewing on the seam for the outside (and only this side), flip the collar inside out, and sew shut the two ends. Trim off the excess fabric, and cut the corners as shown. When that is done, flip it back outside, and you should have a clean rectangular “pocket”.
Here comes the crucial (and difficult) part — remember that the inside is just slightly thicker than the outside? Now we will attach the back by neatly aiming our sewing needle at the seam which we first sewn the outside. If you are careful (and did your ironing job well), you will be able to sew right near the edge of the inside fold, and it’s held together neatly and nicely!
As requested from a poster, I have attached a detailed shot of the inside stitches for the side seam for an opening slit. All I lack now to show are a few pairs of metal snaplocks to attach onto the collar! [TL note: She will need not one set, but two pairs of locks for the collar, as per convention.]
We can sum up the post around now, and fellow girls making this piece, please try to make the piece as long Aos if possible for this kind of short collar. It is best to follow conventions from existing artifacts, and follow its proportions. If you want to have a rounder collar profile, decrease the depth of the collar opening towards the back, and don’t be afraid to experiment (with affordable poly-cotton, please.) Tailoring is definitely not an easy job, as needles and shears can hurt you, and sewing around a corner may test your patience through numerous attempts.