Depending on one's status in society, each social class had a different sense of fashion in ancient China. Most Chinese men wore Chinese black cotton shoes, but wealthy higher class people would wear tough black leather shoes for formal occasions. Very rich and wealthy men would wear very bright, beautiful silk shoes sometimes having leather on the inside. Women would wear silk shoes, with certain wealthy women practicing bound feet wearing coated Lotus shoes as a status symbol until in the early 20th century. Men's shoes were usually less elaborate than women's.
Chinese civil or military officials used a variety of codes to show their rank and position. The most recognized is the Mandarin square or rank bad In. Another code was also the use of colorful hat knobs fixed on the top of their hats. The specific hat knob on one's hat determined one's rank. As there were twelve types of hat knobs representing the nine distinctive ranks of the civil or military position. Variations existed for Ming official head wear. In the Qing Dynasty different patterns of robes represented different ranks.
The rise of the Manchu Qing Dynasty in many ways represented a new clothing styles were required to be worn by all noblemen and officials. Eventually, this style became widespread among the commoners.
A new style of dress, called tangzhuang, included the changshan worn by men and the qipao worn by women. Manchu official headweardiffered from the Ming version, but the Qing continued to use the Mandarin square. It was around this time that foot binding became more popular.
The abolition of imperial China in 1912 had an immediate effect on dress and customs. The largely Han Chinese population immediately cut off their queues they had been forced to grow in submission to the overthrown Qing Dynasty. Sun Yat-sen popularised a new style of men's wear, featuring jacket and trousers instead of the robes worn previously. Adapted from Japanese student wear, this style of dress became known as the Zhongshan suit (Zhongshan being one of Sun Yat-sen's given names in Chinese).
For women, a transformation of the traditional qipao resulted in a slender form-fitting dress with a high cut. This new "cheongsam" contrasted sharply with the traditional qipao but has largely replaced it in modern fashion. In the early republican period, the traditional dudou underbodice was largely abandoned in favor of western-style corsets and bras.
Early in the People's Republic, Mao Zedong would inspire Chinese fashion with his own variant of the Zhongshan suit, which would be known to the west as Mao suit. Meanwhile, Sun Yat-sen's widow, Soong Ching-ling, popularized the cheongsam as the standard female dress. At the same time, old practices such as footbinding, which had been viewed as backwards and unmodern by both the Chinese as well as Westerners, were forbidden.
Around the Destruction of the "Four Olds" period in 1964, almost anything seen as part of Traditional Chinese culture would lead to problems with the Communist Red Guards. Items that attracted dangerous attention if caught in the public includedjeans, high heels, Western-style coats, ties, jewelry, cheongsams, and long hair. These items were regarded as symbols ofbourgeois lifestyle, which represented wealth. Citizens had to avoid them or suffer serious consequences such as torture or beatings by the guards.A number of these items were thrown into the streets to embarrass the citizens.
Hong Kong clothing brand Shanghai Tang's design concept is inspired by historical Chinese clothing. It set out to rejuvenate Chinese fashion of the 1920s and 30s, in bright colors and with a modern twist. Other Chinese luxury brands include NE Tiger, Guo Pei, and Laurence Xu.
For the 2012 Hong Kong Sevens tournament, sportswear brand Kukri Sports teamed up with Hong Kong lifestyle retail store G.O.D. to produce merchandising, which included traditional Chinese jackets and Cheongsam-inspired ladies polo shirts.
In recent years, renewed interest in traditional Chinese culture has led to a movement in China advocating for the revival of ancient Han Chinese clothing. However, some scholars' research mention that the modern definition of "Hanfu", which was in fact originally published on Baidu Baike and other Chinese website, was an empty concept created by internet user.