China boasts a brilliant history of clothing, some dating back to 4,000 years ago, when Chinese people invented silk. Around the 18th century, when the rococo style arose in Europe, it became a fashion for aristocrats to wear Chinese-style costumes to festival balls. In fact, as early as in the Tang Dynasty, China already led the world in its clothing industry. The clothes at the time were innovatively bright in color, light and soft in texture, graceful in style, and valuable in artistic terms, as evident in the extant Tang-style clothes preserved to this day in the Shoso-in Treasures of Japan.
During the 2001 APEC Summit, with China as the host country, an important moment occurs when heads of member states pose for the collective photograph of all in Tang-style apparel, attracting worldwide attention for its rich and strong Chinese characteristics.
This attire is named after the Tang dynasty, a prosperous era in Chinese history. The label “Tang-style apparel” gives recognition to ancient Chinese culture, though not necessarily meaning this design was popular in the Tang Dynasty. The name today is simply a term for a special Chinese-style design in clothing.
Tang-style fashion in reality combines the Manchu clothing style of the Qing Dynasty with the style of Western suits. Such designs are available for both men and women.
Tang-style apparel has four main elements: first, it is usually front-buttoned, though most of women’s costumes are buttoned on the left, a design not only displaying the characteristics of the Chinese style but looking quite graceful; second, it always has a vertical collar, which sets off the wearer’s demeanor; third, it has no seams between the sleeves and the main part of the costume; fourth, it uses handmade stylish cloth buttons.
The design, the source of the vivacity of the Tang-style apparel, presents a strong national flavor. It usually features peony, plum, orchid, bamboo, and chrysanthemum to symbolize fortune, dignity and purity; or features Chinese characters meaning blessing, longevity, or double happiness. Today, Chinese people love to wear Tang-style clothing on happy occasions or during festivals wishing for blessing and happiness.