Some thoughts on the recent Hanfu uniform proposal

hanfuuniformblogRecently, major news sites such as Chinanews and Guangzhou Daily has been circulating a set of illustrations to propose a modernized version of Hanfu for use as high school uniforms, and is the first seriously accepted design for Hanfu in our time.
Previous to the release of this design, other “modernizing innovations” ranged from shortening the length of the shang skirt, to adding zippers and lace in its designs. Most Hanfu supporters strongly rejected the idea, citing that “Hanfu has not yet been popularized, and it would be unwise to Westernize it before the convention is stable.”
Their doubt and hesitance to quickly adapting existant elements has no doubt paid off, in the sense of confirming a public sense of what Hanfu is, differentiating itself from Korean and Japanese clothing of similar appearance.
In this article, I will focus on the criticism of this rumoured proposal for a Hanfu-inspired school uniform.

Hanfu Uniform - Proposed top

Hanfu Uniform - Proposed top

First off is the top – generally based off a white shirt cutting, short sleves and a low easy collar with hidden snap buttons to fasten. A crucial element of Hanfu is minimizing hard objects used as fasteners to ensure the most comfort – and hidden snap buttons may be a viable solution next to tied sashes. However, should tailors attempt to cut and tailor exactly according to this diagram, there are several major flaws may present discomfort for the wearer:

  • Traditionally, the fastener point is located at the underbust, or the position about 4~5 inches below the armpit, and the angle of all inner visible layers should be 80~90° at the point of intersection. The result is double-layering of cloth for most of the chest area. In this design, the fastening point is at the bottom of the shirt, changing the angle of the intersecting points and only providing dual-layer protection for the lower abdomen area. If the material is thinner (such as the thin cotton-poly cloth used in school uniforms today) it may be an embarassment for girls to have their bras peer through from the two sides that aren’t covered.
  • A common mistake I like to often point out – the collar is opened too wide — Hanfu should wrap in a close fit with the neck, and should this design be put on a three-dimensional body, the stretching of the arms would open the collar even further than designed (as all clothing would, more or less), and produce a common flaw in most lower-end Hanfu today of opening too far and showing the lockbone. A Hanfu zhongyi (or whatever is worn as the first layer) should not reveal that.The use of a fastener just below/at the point of intersection: The intention is not to have the collar fall open when bending down and revealing the inside. However, Hanfu with a good fit and proper fastening at the side should not have this problem (regardless of top/bust size), and would further remove the traditional functions of a Hanfu top — to store things inside (or accessing an inside pocket, which can be done if the button didn’t exist). Upon a second reconsideration, perhaps the use of this central button can be an option, and even feature for a school crest on the button outside.
The skirt of the Hanfu Uniform proposal.

The skirt of the Hanfu Uniform proposal.

The skirt of the proposed design is a direct application of the mamian qun (or horse-faced skirt), from female apparel in the Ming dynasty, with modern fabric and patterns suited for a school environment. Similar to other wrap skirts or kilts, the primary problem of it is it blowing open in a crosswind – a problem that wasn’t as evident if the skirt was full-length and lined with heavy fabric. However, as the skirt is now at knee-length and probably mass-produced with a woolen material, it is now evidently an issue – and while the kilt solves the issue with the characteristic large safety pin, a hidden snap button is used for the skirt of Chinese context – another stroke of modern genius many approve. A point I hope to see manufacturers get correctly is that the definition of a mamian qun is that the broad pleate is present at both the front and back, unlike the kilt which is only at the front. Diagrams from here do not show the existance of a back ‘face’, so that may be a point which must be pointed out and corrected. Perhaps a little feature (such as a stripe) at the end of the skirt would highlight the design, or feature the uniqueness of a school. That is left for each institution to decide for themselves. As a point of suggestion, pockets in the skirt may be much appreciated.

Old in Future - high-tech integration for the information age

Old in Future - high-tech integration for the information age

The proposal also suggested safety and information features such as including on the waistband of the skirt a ‘jade’ which includes the name of the school and student in seal-script, as well a jade decoration hung from the waist (a traditional piece of decor worn by both men and women, and can be used to hold the skirt down from the wind) that contains a RFID chip containing student information much similar to the function of a student card (sometimes even with a monetary balance – to access laundry machines, printers etc.) today. The only concern of this would be security, as these are attachments and are the most visible (and most stealable or easily misplaced) articles worn.

Qipao has been a staple in Hong Kong's uniform design. Image from HKSG Database (Maryknoll Father's School).

Qipao has been a staple in Hong Kong's uniform design. Image from HKSG Database (Maryknoll Father's School).

As Hanfu becomes more and more recognized in the mainland, the question of representation of tradition will no doubt spill over to question standing symbols of ‘Chinese-ness’. So far, the government has stood on a ‘let-be’ attitude, while the majority of the Chinese (who aren’t particularly against Hanfu) mostly submit to the idea of accepting the idea that the “Chinese” image is multifaceted and a duality of existance is needed in our time.

EDIT: Other pictures of the whole design has been posted here as well.

 

Girls' fall-winter uniform, based on Ming ruqun designs

Girls' fall-winter uniform, based on Ming ruqun designs

Girls' uniform - Winter with coat

Girls' uniform - Winter with coat

Hanfu Uniform for men: Winter

Hanfu Uniform for men: Winter

Hanfu Uniform: Spring uniform for men

Hanfu Uniform: Spring uniform for men

16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Billy
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 19:59:13

    Sounds like a good idea to me. I hope that schools adopt. One question. Which schools are planning to adopt the Hanfu uniforms and is it just female uniforms? How about male uniforms?

    Reply

    • Satsuki Shizuka
      Apr 13, 2009 @ 01:16:16

      As of the moment, it’s still a floating idea on the paper and online. I suppose they haven’t gotten around to male uniforms yet, and I’d personally love to see a LONG version (with overcoat) for both male/female during winters. Or do as I do – maintain knee-length skirt but have a longer overcoat. It’s modern, and sexy too. ^^

      (Hmm, maybe a personal drawing is in order?)

      Reply

  2. Billy
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 06:45:24

    a personal drawing sounds good ^__^. What are your thoughts on the uniform proposal? Personally, I think its a great idea that should be implemented. The designs I saw looked pretty respectable of historical Hanfu and I think they are easy enough to be implemented. I would love to see a male version though. I like the idea of the jade used as a ID card. By the way, Ming Hua Tang just updated their blog with new Female Hanfu in case you havent checked lately. It looks really quite nice. Do you know when their online shop will open up?

    Reply

  3. Jensen
    Apr 14, 2009 @ 08:03:52

    There is male version provided.

    I am worrying it would generate racism discussion if promoted as uniform.

    Reply

    • Satsuki Shizuka
      Apr 14, 2009 @ 12:11:59

      Jensen;

      That’s the thing about Han Culture in China today. Foreigners fail to understand why there is the issue of the “Chinese” finding it so hard to even talk or show the material culture of the ethnic majority, on the fear of “racism discussion” (or more wiki-specific, Han chauvinism).

      Taking Hanfu as the basis of the uniform for one or two schools in a Han-centric area is by no means ‘racism’, and there is no need to particularly separate, but neither enforce ethnic minorities to conform. Emphasizing too much on differences of ethnicity (race) of an individual promotes cliques and discourage discourse.

      Reply

      • Jensen Liu
        Apr 14, 2009 @ 15:03:08

        I can not agree more. China has too many social and economic problems to solve right now. How people symbolize hanfu is really a sensitive thing for the whole nation and its government to deal with.

        It would be nice it’s simply just a fashion. Unfortunately, it has been attached with too much extra meanings.

        Reply

      • Satsuki Shizuka
        Apr 14, 2009 @ 16:02:52

        Ah, but Jensen;

        The Hanfu Movement began as a political statement against the under-representation of Han culture! One cannot simply dismiss the cause or the purpose of the clothing and accept the material object for the sake of itself – old-school materialism is an outdated concept.

        The question lies among the people whether they can take into the idea that Han Chinese exist, they have a culture, and because of demographic and historic factors they are representative of what China is, or should be at least largely.

        Reply

  4. Trackback: Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts starts Hanfu class | Hanfu Review | 汉服观察
  5. Violetlily11
    Apr 14, 2009 @ 18:11:38

    Nice *.*

    Schools should definitely implement hanfu-style uniforms for aesthetic reasons if nothing else. They’re much better looking than the gaudy tracksuits that most school children in China wear.

    (The qipao uniforms are….=.=. Sorry.)

    Reply

  6. Billy
    Apr 14, 2009 @ 19:40:52

    I dont really like the mens uniforms that much

    Reply

  7. tanhql
    May 18, 2009 @ 23:03:21

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruqun
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Ruqun

    Just to side-track a bit (dunno if this is allowed anyway), there is a debate over the wikipedia Ruqun article (at the discussion/talk page). Hope that people over here can chip in your views. Thanks.

    Reply

    • Satsuki Shizuka
      May 19, 2009 @ 21:12:54

      I have taken a look at the discussions over on that talk page. I would welcome any discussion (even if it is to some degree hate mail) on this board as well to extend it.
      However, since I am no Wikipedian, I doubt I will be participating in the battle of words. What I would like to point out is there is indeed much research needed to expand the category of Han Chinese traditional clothing and headgear (which is next to nonexistant).
      And from what I can see with the uphill struggle over’ere, the primary concern is the lack of reliable sources (in English), due to the general ignorance/lack of effort by Anglophone formal academic researchers to dissect (in detail) the inner workings of Hanfu, which is the very reason the Hanfu Movement came into being, but is now questioned by a group of vocal Korean Wikipedians and being thrown around in a loop using these improper/poorly researched materials.

      Typical problem of any revision in academia.

      Reply

  8. nahataha
    Sep 27, 2009 @ 20:08:59

    see.. i realy like uniform boy high scholl wearing black color shall i want u take picture 4 me…

    Reply

  9. Claire Winters
    Oct 02, 2010 @ 15:39:31

    Personally, the girl’s uniform top looks a bit like the top of a yukata.

    Reply

    • Michelle
      May 03, 2012 @ 07:20:20

      That is because japansese clothing was heavily influenced by the Han Chinese clothing early on.
      I love the uniform designs!

      Reply

  10. bm
    Apr 11, 2012 @ 04:07:46

    Ahhh I know it’s 2012 now but I just saw this and I’d still wanna say… this was an idea posted online not as an official proposal or anything, and the author had written explicitly that it is not “modernized Hanfu” or whatever, it is just uniform “with design elements of Hanfu”.

    Reply

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