You Should Be Reading: Chinese Costume

This Thursday marks the opening of China: Through the Looking Glass,  a Costume Institute exhibition at the Met touted as “two and a half times larger than any previous” produced by the Institute. Tonight’s Met Gala red carpet will receive extensive coverage from fashion media, and many outlets have expressed concern that celebrity guests will be unable to dress for the theme without giving offense. In preparation for live streaming this potentially controversial event, or just to further contextualize the range of Chinese aesthetics-influenced objects that will be on display, below are three recent academic articles on historic costumes of China. In an attempt to address broader subjects of costume studies, I chose a conservation study and analyses of patterns and color. If you’re a member of the Met and will attend the exhibition’s preview that begins tomorrow, we’d love to hear what you thought of it in the comments.

1. Chen, Wang. (2014). Conservation Study of Ming Dynasty Silk Costumes Excavated in Jiangsu Region, China. Studies in Conservation, 59 (Supplement), S177-S180.

The article discusses the study into the conservation of damaged silk costumes from the Ming Dynasty from the Jiangsu region in China. Topics include details on the history of the silk production industry in Jiangnan, China, details on the effect of research of the texture of costume fabrics and artifacts on conserving materials scientifically, details on Suzhou Silk Museum of China’s work in conserving Ming dynasty silk costumes, and details on the correlation between the forms and patterns of the costumes and the social class of the people. – Full Article Abstract

2. Yu, Zhang. (2014). The Application of Xinjiang Traditional Atles Silk Patterns in Modern Costume Design. Advanced Materials Research, 1048, 245-249.

The Atles Silk, popular in Xinjiang, China, is a traditional batiked silk rewoven after warp-knot dyeing process, with its pattern as one of distinctive national features. Through arrangement and analysis of its constitution and nature, the author holds that the Atles silk pattern provides abundant elements for designing in terms of modeling, decoration, etc so the research and application of the pattern is significant in modern costume design.  – Full Article Abstract

3. Qu, Xiaomeng. (2012). Study on the Prohibition of the Purple Costumes in Ancient China. Asian Social Science, 8 (8), 134-138.

In ancient China, the color of the costumes was closely related to the social position of its wearer. It was such an intuitive and effective way to maintain the ruling order by distinguishing hierarchy according to the color of the costumes. As one of the important types of costume color in ancient China, the symbolic meaning of the color purple had went through the changes from the humble secondary color to a color representing honorable position. The prohibition on purple costumes had become an important part of the prohibitions in costumes in ancient China. This paper aims to probe into the transmission and changes about the prohibitions on purple costumes in ancient China by listing the regulations on wearing prohibition for its social members in different dynasties.  – Full Article Abstract

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