A revival of centuries-old dress is catching on among China’s fashionable Gen Z set. Social-media star Shiyin speaks to Meng-Yun Wang about Hanfu style.
On the streets of Shanghai, Shiyin can be seen wearing a traditional outfit from China’s Ming period. Shiyin, a content creator, routinely shares recent fashion purchases and beauty tips on her widely followed social-media feeds—but it’s her passion for Hanfu that really sets her apart.
Though “Chinese” clothing is often typified by the qipao (a close-fitting dress, also called the cheongsam), Hanfu— essentially, a type of dress from any era when the Han Chinese ruled—is seen in China as a more authentic form of historical clothing. Styles from the Tang (7th to 10th century), Song (10th to 13th), and Ming (13th to 17th) periods are the most popular: flowing robes in beautiful shades, embellished with intricate designs and embroidery.
The movement is being led by China’s fashionconscious youth, like Shiyin— who, after decades of aspiring to Western trends, are now looking closer to home for a sense of traditionalism. In recent years, the number of Hanfu enthusiasts has almost doubled (there are now more than six million, while the hashtag #Hanfu has seen more than 47.7 billion views on Douyin, China’s TikTok equivalent). Among them you’ll find a purist minority who abhor any historical inaccuracies, and
Shiyin (center) with friends Xuefei and Weiwei, all in variations of the ma mian qun— or “horse-face skirt”—a garment typical of Hanfu. Photographed by Peng Ke.