I re-watched Disney's Mulan earlier this year when it came out on Netflix, and since I'm participating in the HSF, I got curious about actual historical Chinese clothing. After extensive research, I discovered that the fashions in the Disney movie span oh, 5000 years of Chinese clothing.
|In Mulan 2, she wears a Warring States period/early Han dynasty spiral-shaped garment, while Li Shang's garments throughout the movie are from much, much later, more like Ming and Qing dynasties.|
|From the book 5000 Years of Chinese Costume.|
|Mulan's matchmaking outfit is most similar to the Tang dynasty fashion of having the skirt pulled up to above the bust, with long trailing sleeves and flowing ribbons.|
|In Mulan 2, she shows a bunch of neighborhood children how to do some basic martial arts. Their clothing is kind of "generic peasant," with a basic jacket/top and short pants.|
|They look very similar to this Han dynasty sculpture. The 5000 Years book shows paintings of common people from the Han through Song dynasties all wearing similar outfits.|
In wanting to make my own somewhat historically accurate hanfu, I ran into a significant and unexpected roadblock: while Western historical fashion only goes back a few hundred years, and therefore it's much easier to find well-preserved extant garments, Chinese history is much, much longer. Most of the well-documented extant garments and paintings date from the Qing dynasty, which spans all the time from before the Restoration, through the Georgian, Regency, Romantic, Victorian, and finally Edwardian periods. Unfortunately, the Qing dynasty is not even a native Han Chinese dynasty; the Qing were actually Manchurians, and therefore the costume of that time period doesn't "count" as true Chinese clothing. Even the iconic qipao/cheongsam is a more modern derivative of the Manchurian style of clothing. Anyway, I wanted to look at actual Han Chinese clothing, but I only found a few examples, none of which had all the information and photographs that I would have wanted. Between library books and teh interwebs, I was able to find a few shenyi from the Mawangdui tomb (c. 168 BC, Han dynasty), a beizi and a pleated skirt from the Song Dynasty, and another jacket and skirt set from the Ming Dynasty.
|Women's jacket and pleated skirt.|
Paintings and statues, however, were slightly more plentiful/helpful. While it's more difficult to find representations of women (there are lots of of royalty, male court officials, and soldiers), thankfully there are enough empresses, concubines, musicians, and attendants to get an idea of the general fashions of the various dynasties. If I can boil down hours of research and 5000 years of costume history: when it comes to the general population (i.e. not royalty or dancers) there's a basic uniform of a top and a skirt, with just the changes in sleeve length and width, skirt height, and jacket openness to indicate the dynasty.
|Han Dynasty mural: jacket with moderately huge sleeves, overskirt with a tie belt.|
|Wei Dynasty court attendant: jacket with huge sleeves, pleated skirt and overskirt open at the front.|
|Detail from the Tang Dynasty painting "Night Revels" shows lady musicians with narrow-sleeved jackets, overskirts, sash belts.|
|"Dinner Party" painting from the Five Dynasties period shows outfits very similar to the Tang Dynasty one above. The overskirt is clearly pleated.|
|This Liao Dynasty painting also shows an overskirt with a voluminous jacket, with an underskirt/shirt inside. Also, a cat!|
|This Song Dynasty painting shows a lady wearing a jacket+skirt+overskirt+tie belt combo again, with a cape-type thing as well.|
|This Ming Dynasty painting of women playing ball shows extra long-sleeved kackets with at least two layers of skirts, and surprise! pants underneath it all!|
|Qing Dynasty painting showing guess what, a jacket/skirt/tie-belt ensemble again!|
(All the sources for the above images are collected on my Pinterest board for this costume.)
As you can see, not much changes when it comes to this basic outfit! Rather than aiming for one specific era, I decided to make a generic jacket with moderate width sleeves and rely on the skirt placement to change the look. I'll make the skirts for the separates challenge later in the year. To make the jacket, I mostly used the diagrams put out by the various groups dedicated to the revival of the hanfu:
I started with (what else?) a twin flat sheet, took my measurements, and cut out the basic shape. From there, it was just a matter of sewing up the side seams (my fabric was wide enough to not require a center back seam), cutting the curve in the front (not historically accurate, but I like that it gives the impression of a spiral-shaped garment when it's worn over the skirt), and adding the contrast binding. When I make the wrap skirt, the inaccurate front curves will be hidden.
|It looks like a muumuu without a belt, but then a lot of the historical jackets were pretty oversized. The sleeves are much longer than my arm, as extant garments and paintings both seem to dictate. There is no shaping to speak of, unlike modern, costume-y hanfu made from chiffon and satin.|
And here's what it looked like on Cecily!
|With a totally anachronistic black elastic belt and gold drapery tie, over a thrifted green silk charmeuse skirt.|
|From the back: it's pretty bulky with all the excess fabric. I'm tempted to redo the skirt portion to be more flattering, historical accuracy be darned, but am loath to give up even the tiny modicum of accuracy that I can claim.|
|Side view...pretty boring. It was getting pretty dark when I took these pictures, so they're also not the sharpest.|
Like the pirate coat, I'm waiting until I make the whole ensemble to do a proper photo shoot of it on me. I still need to make the long wrap skirt (probably in black), the shorter overskirt (hoping for gold), and the tie belt (need to find a suitable large jade pendant). And in case you couldn't tell from my Pinterest board, I'm planning to make this into a Mulan/Loki mashup (for no good reason other than that both have a green color scheme and are defying social expectations because of some father-related issue), so I'll eventually up adding a black leather over-jacket thing like these Tang Dynasty dancers and making a staff.
Fabric: A thrifted 100% cotton twin flat sheet for the body, and 2/3 yard of floral print green and gold quilting cotton for the binding (purchased at Michael Levine Loft).
|It's vaguely Asian-looking, right? Sandra helped me choose it (and find enough scraps in the Loft bins to make up the 2/3 yard that I needed). I'm really pleased with how the two greens look together.|
Notions: Anachronistic seam binding for the insides.
Year: No specific dynasty, but probably fits the Ming Dynasty best. Incidentally, that's the dynasty where the tale of Hua Mulan was turned into a full-length novel (though the original story dates back to the Wei Dynasty, and the Hun antagonists of the Disney version date back to the Han Dynasty).
Hours: 10, not counting all the research! The nice thing about early historical garments is that the basic pattern is so shapeless and easy. The binding probably took the longest, what with cutting, pressing, and sewing all the strips of fabric.
How historically accurate is it? Not very! Early Chinese garments were usually made of hemp or silk, depending on social status, and there were certain prescribed colors, and dark green was not one of the options for anyone. Cotton didn't become popular as a textile for clothing until the Ming Dynasty. Plus, I sewed this all on machine, and as I mentioned above, the shape of the hem is not accurate. Goodness knows how all of that research still managed to yield such an inaccurate final product!
Will you make it again? I want to make another strictly costume-y hanfu at some point in my life, just because they're pretty, but who knows when that will actually happen.
Total cost: $5 ($3 sheet, less than $2 for the binding)
Final thoughts: I'm not sure how I feel about it yet. I'll hold off on making concludions until I make the rest of the outfit, but for now, the excessive green reminds me of one of my favorite Chinese movies, 十面埋伏.
|The whole movie is beautifully colored, but I especially love the vivid, almost neon green scenes in the bamboo forest.|