Standup Collar for Dummies: Differentiating from the Mandarin Collar

Female Standup collar Ao with red Beifeng coat. Made by Jinglian Mantang of Hangzhou.

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.

When laid flat or hung, a Hanfu standup collar reverts to a shortened cross collar shape. Clothing and photo from Minghua Tang, 2011 catalogue.

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.

Source: 【白色立领袄制作过程】上元节应景贴~~ by 蓮生_驚鴻,
Reorganized and paraphrased by Satsuki Shizuka, for Toronto Guqin Society

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.

Tools of the trade - rulers, measuring tape, chalk, shears, pattern paper and fabric.

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.

1. Draw curves of hems and sleeves with a curve. 2. Link up seams with straightedge. 3. Sleeves are all curves. 4. Carefully measure collar with curve.

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!

1. Main body parts, 2. Extending lapels, and 3. Sleeves (undetached).

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.

Sewing things up. 1. Sewing up the sleeve. 2. Sewing the sashes in reverse, then poking it inside-out with a pencil.


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

Sewing on the collar. Top row shows the ironing and folding the lining and layers, while the bottom row shows how to neatly sew, flip, and trim the collar into a neat sewn-shut pocket.

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”.

Finishing the collar and other details. The top row shows how the final seams are placed; the bottom row shows the (near) final product without metal locks, and a shot of the side seam details for side slits.

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.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. William
    Feb 25, 2012 @ 02:01:27

    Was the stand-up collar during the Ming only for females or did men wear them as well?


    • Satsuki Shizuka 五月靜
      Feb 25, 2012 @ 02:07:12

      From existing artifacts, the *obvious* standup collar was female-only. While fake/shorter collars were part of other male designs (look at Emp. Wanli’s yellow round collar robe: the cross collar inside is a fake layer), they all try to hide it, trying to pass as cross-collar designs. Only among female fashion did it boldly demonstrate otherwise.

      If anything, the Ming was a period full of fuyao, or “sartorially deviant” people. The term encompasses anywhere from ritually improper clothing, all the way to crossdressing and streaking (yes, as in running naked on the streets). Fun times.


  2. William
    Feb 26, 2012 @ 07:43:06

    Thanks for the explanation. So if the mandarin collar was already present during the Ming, how about the stand up collars that wrap around the neck that you see in traditional Manchurian and also Mongolian and Tibetan men’s clothing? Are those an independent development from the Mandarin collar worn by women during the Ming or are they related in any way? Perhaps the stand up collar’s prevalence in the clothing of the Mongolians/Manchurians/Tibetans have some connection with a semi-nomadic or nomadic lifestyle??


  3. Satsuki Shizuka 五月靜
    Feb 26, 2012 @ 09:36:47

    You are asking a question which I’ve already explained on Facebook. I’ll repost the whole thing here (from the stage of your question onwards):

    Francesca Bernice: Juni, just curious; the stand-up collars looked very similar to the QIng Dynasty clothing ~ are there any relations? Because most hanfu do not have stand-up collars and buttons like this one; was it due to ‘inspiration of foreign garments’ and hence introduced into the hanfu? (Just trying to understand this better.)

    Juni L Yeung: Hey Fran;
    Geez, long story, so I guess I’ll give it in gist short form.
    – Ming designers started looking into alternative/queer design, also for conservation of material
    – They started using more metal locks and later discovered that shortening the cross collar works
    – Standup collars result of shortening cross collar to just its meeting point and a little more. Used as a substitute for inner dress in layering, such as a round collar robe or vest on top
    – Such collars wipe across the neck and cover it entirely
    – Qing came around and banned Hanfu outright, but promised to leave female fashion alone
    – Since China is a patriarchial society, women follow suit anyway, discover that since Manchu clothing uses buttons, they can preserve Han clothing best with this new design
    – Replace metal or pearl locks with cloth buttons, much larger knot profile
    – Mandarin collars have rounded edge which allows front centre to be open, and are additional parts to an otherwise collarless Manchu design. Only HAN women Manchu dress have such collars (Manchu Manchu dress have no collars)
    – Unlike Manchu standup collars which are patched on, Han standup collars are horizontal strips which can be worn cross-collared, technically, by design.

    Francesca Bernice: Thanks Juni, but I’m afraid that brings up to more questions~please bear with me, but I think you really know alot. When you’d said “Manchurian-manchu dress had no collars, do you mean the women do not wear the ‘mandarin-collar’ which we are now familiar with?

    Juni L Yeung: That is correct.
    REAL Manchurians wear something quite different from Han Chinese women living under the Manchu Qing Empire, so to racially distinguish and segregate them.
    By the late Qing, trends have merged somewhat as Manchu women added collars to their pieces, but the power of the Law (See: Cixi) reminded these young Manchus that they should know their place and remain racially and culturally separate, for the survival of their cultural identity.

    Francesca Bernice: Juni, does that mean the ‘mandarin collars’ were actually han-inspired? So only the ‘frog-buttons’ were manchu-origin?

    Juni L Yeung: It’s difficult for me to word out an answer for you in this one. Yes and no, because the principle in Manchu clothing is also based from Confucian principles, which is Han (nothing to be ashamed of – everyone in East Asia is anyway). Frog buttons (and their ugly centipede profiles when used en masse) are a Han innovation out of austerity…so technically everything is Han in terms of element of design.
    What’s different, however, is in the overall aesthetics. Hans, for one thing, would never use that 厂-shaped collar which does not stand up on the neck, never use any buttons that are obviously visible, and GOD FORBID the use of horseshoe cuffs. It’s difficult to precisely pin down what makes a Hanfu Hanfu, when you boil down to the lowest common denominator among all East Asian clothing, but it’s different enough to instill a rebellion that caused 64 million people dead and 263 years of obvious and underground resistance.


    • Satsuki Shizuka 五月靜
      Feb 26, 2012 @ 09:43:06

      …and if you decide to tl;dr on this comment, here’s a short(er) answer:

      Manchurian clothing has no collar, while Mongolian clothing prior to the Qing Empire looked closer to Han clothing than Manchu. “Mandarin” collar stuff are deviations of Ming female fashion, which Manchus wear but do not adopt into proper dress-code. They love the added neck protection, but they’re not about to give up their racial superiority to let in an innovation of their subjugated races.
      The little blue collar on Qing official outfits are fake collars.
      Unlike the Ming short collar which is a cross-collar variant, Qing Han collars are made fixed, and cannot change shape when laid flat, because the collar opening is different to begin with.


  4. Nicole
    Jun 30, 2014 @ 11:25:39

    Hi owner of this site, Google “nonya 1920” or “nonya baju panjang” and you will be surprised to see the ladies wearing standup collar with pins. These ladies belongs to Peranakan Chinese, a group of Overseas Chinese whose ancestors left China during the Ming dynasty.


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