The Silk Movement: A Look Into Li-Ren Fashion
[ 书香门第 (Courtyard), Wang Meifang & Zhao Guojing ]
From humble beginnings on a simple tower atop Talon’s Grotto in Arcas to the nation that Yong Ping is today, the culture of the Li-Ren is now being appraised and pushed center stage, all across the continent. One of our culture’s most notable parts that tend to make onlookers stop and gaze is our customary dress — our hanfu. It is this style that elevates us from any other culture on Ai-zho — no, on all of Almaris for that matter. Unlike the western fashion of our neighbors, it is the fashion of the Li-Ren that prides itself on grace, elegance, and overall hygiene rather than appeals to a ‘marriage market’. It is our fashion that leaves room for more encompassing styles, rather than constantly sticking to a binary of the two sexes. Yet, it is something rarely ever deeply looked at compared to the fashion of the foreigners. Why is that? Is it simply just ignorance - blissful ignorance of our long history and how that itself ties into the very clothes we wear? I aim to change that.
What is hanfu?
Hanfu, 漢服, is a Li-Wen term, referring to the customary clothing of the Li-Ren, those who follow the customs of Li-Guo. They are characterized by their flowing sleeves, as well as the tight belt or sash to hold the ensemble together. The placement of this waistband can, but not always, depend on the gender of the wearer. What the hanfu is not is a robe for one unfamiliar or unassociated with the culture to simply put on like a simple costume, or ‘dress’. That would be a sight all too disrespectful.
For both men and women, hanfu are all categorized by different names, creating hundreds of different styles with many accessories, and each of these styles come inspired all from the eras of our great history. The trending sides of fashion are never usually so fast paced - a style from centuries ago, or even our very beginnings, can be one you'd see in Yong Ping, or even back in our homeland. This study will be more about those styles, rather than the makings of the clothing. That information, I believe, should be held only amongst our own people.
[!] Following the introduction of the study, the next pages would be filled with simple diagrams - painted sketches of each type of clothing Xiahong described. Though he wasn't so skilled in painting, he certainly tried his best.
裋褐 / Shuhe
The shuhe combines a cross-collar tunic with a sash and trousers. This style I have seen more popularized amongst the common folk, and mostly small children as well. It proves to be convenient and practical, perfect for activities done in one's daily life, such as farming- or more laborious tasks. Though, since it was made for these tasks, finding a shuhe made in more expensive material can be a hard feat. Why risk ripping or dirtying expensive silks in such an outfit when you can wear one of more comfortable material?
道袍 / Daopao
A style commonly seen among the old scholars and gentry of the past, a daopao, on its own, is a full length, cross-collar, single robe with side slits beginning below the waist. It is easy to see why it was such a common choice among the men of the upper-class. How fashionable one would find himself in a daopao! While I can’t speak for other Li-Ren men, I can say with all pride it is a personal favorite. A daopao can come in two different ensembles. One would be the pifeng 披风, a parallel-collared, open jacket. [Spoiler: Pictured in the 2nd example above] It bares similarities to the beizi 褙子 women wear over a ruqun. The other outer garment is a dahu 褡护, a wrapping robe with half sleeves. [Spoiler: Pictured in the 3rd & 4th]
圆领袍, 圓領衫 / Yuanlingpao, Yuanlingshan
Making appearances around the formation of the newly prosperous Li Dynasty, the yuanlingpao is a closed, round-collared robe that can be combined with trousers. If I made a point of the daopao being a personal favorite, the yuanlingpao comes at a close second. With how long this type of hanfu has been present, it has had time to make an impact even to Li-Guo’s neighbors, the nobles of Oyashima once taking inspiration in their early history. The hem of this robe comes in either long or short sizes - the latter reaching to one's knees and the former often times reaching the ground itself. It is common to see those in the guard of Li-Guo wear this, but now, it is simply a popular style among men of any age.
曳撒 / Yisan
The yisan - more high class, embroidered patterns referred to as the feiyu fu 飞鱼服 (the flying fish uniform), is a one-piece robe with a cross-collar top & large pleated skirt. Making its first appearance in the reign of Emperor Liu-hong, feiyu fu were once only awarded by the Emperor to eunuchs and members of the imperial guard. But, as time took its toll- and especially with our migration to new lands, the yisan became a common, preferred style of the younger upper class. The yisan of today can be differentiated from the uniform of the past with less embroidered designs - even the Zhanshi regiment carry out the style beneath the clads of their armor.
衣裳 / Yichang
Similar to a ruqun for females, the yichang is a cross-collar top, that combines a wrap around skirt. A standard hanfu for men, there are many liberties one can take with a yichang. The flowing sleeves can often be wrapped up for combat with wrist guards. Or, one can simply don a dachang 大氅 over it, an open-fronted robe [Spolier: Pictured below]. Now, I have seen some make the mistake of confusing this combination with the Oyashiman haori and hakama, but these differences are easy to spot, as the haori is much shorter - in both sleeve and robe size.
齐胸襦裙 / Qixiong Ruqun
Arguably one of the most popular styles among women, the qixiong ruqun (chest-high skirt) utilizes one of the most basic type of hanfus, a ruqun- quite literally a wrap-around skirt (top for ru/襦, skirt for qun/ 裙), and by placing the waistband at the chest, promotes strong posture among women. While it’s counterpart, the qiyao ruqun 齐腰襦裙 (a waist-high ruqun), is just as popular a style, this style is commonly seen amongst even the most noble of women, a look of elegance and beauty among the wearers. Coming into Yong Ping, this is a style you will see constantly.
袄裙 / Aoqun
The aoqun consists of a top with double the layers, referred to as “ao 袄“ and the classic waist-high qun. Unlike other ruqun that have the top tucked inside the skirt, the top of an aoqun is worn untucked, above the skirt. There are two sizes an ao comes in- short and long. The short ao reaches the waist, while the long ao will cover the knees. They first made their appearance in the previous era of Li-Guo, just before the start of Tai Ping back in it's first continent - Arcas, relatively new, and mostly seen worn by the women of the court. The length of an ao can sometimes make all the difference; the shorter the ao, the more youthful the look, and a long ao gives a more conservative and mature one.
比甲 / Bijia
A bijia is a sleeveless jacket with side slits, similar to a “vest” in the fashion of the foreigners. It’s typically worn over Aoqun. Bijia does come in different styles, just like the aoqun it is worn over - namely, different types of collars; a Jiao Ling 交领 (cross collar) [Spoiler: Pictured first], a fang ling 方领 (square collar) [Spoiler: Pictured third], and a dui jin 对襟 (parallel collar) [Spoiler: 2, 4, 5]. The length can go from either the hips, to all but an inch or two off the ground. It is not such a style that I see often, though I wish that would change, seeing how sophisticated it makes one look.
褙子 / Beizi
The beizi is a parallel-collared “jacket” coming with side slits starting at either the armpit or waist. It is possible to secure one’s front with a tie or a metal button. Since they tend to be extremely versatile, they come in various sizes, as well as their sleeves. Perfect for the summer and hot temperatures, a style that has always been a trending look, even back in Li-Guo, is a beizi over a chest undergarment and skirt. Even for a woman with no noble or wealthy background, this style was easily accessible - at least, compared to other options of hanfu specific to women.
曲裾 / Quju
A type of Shenyi 深衣 (a long full body garment), the quju is a curved-hem robe, in which the bottom hem of the left lapel spirals its way up to the waist of the wearer. This happens to be one the oldest types of hanfu, dating back to even the first days of Li-Guo’s unification. Though it’s a style seldom seen in Yong Ping, more modernized versions have been made, sleeker on the body than the quju of the past.
半臂 / Banbi
A banbi is simply a half-sleeve jacket, worn by both men and women. Like most overgarments, it comes in various lengths, worn over ruqun or yichang, coming in either a parallel, crossed, or circular-shaped collar. When paired with one’s hanfu, it can be worn tucked inside the skirt as well as over the skirt, untucked. Like the beizi, this is an overgarment perfect for the summer's heat - keeping one cool while still making them fashionable! Due to it's lightness, it is perfect for daily activities, no matter the expense of the material - not in the least bit restricting to the body.
直裾 / Zhiju
Another type of shenyi, the Zhiju is practically the basis for hanfu, a one-piece, cross-collar robe, obtaining its name in contrast to the Quju. However, unlike the Quju, the Zhiju’s bottom hem circles around levelly, making it essentially a straight robe. Worn by both men and women, wealthy and poor, this hanfu has been around since even before unification, going through just as many changes as it has lasted this long. Depending on the material - or even the overall mood of the wearer - it can either be something formal or just simple casualwear when one is going outside. I even happen to wear a light one in my sleep.
[ credit to 伊吹鸡腿子 (ibuki satsuki) ]
When one is so young, flashy appearance is not something always considered. A child you will most likely see in something more practical. Children’s hanfu is generally similar to that of their elders, only the outfits and materials favored are made to be gentle on a child’s skin. For example, it would be hard to picture a small girl in a qixiong ruqun, with a sash restricting her chest and keeping her straight posture at such a young age. Our little ones usually wear outfits with separate tops and bottoms, such as the shuhe mentioned earlier. It is not uncommon to see one’s toddler in just a banbi alone, or with a beizi over their ruqun. Any combination goes, so long as it lets the child do what they’re meant to do- play around freely.
[ [!] An author's note, written on the following sketch that showcased the many hairstyles and headresses of the Li-Ren. "This time, this sketch was not me! I've gotten a ghost artist - I'm afraid I've exhausted and grown insecure of my own artistic abilites!" (All credit to Mona! Wow, I drew that!) ]
Where would we be in a study of fashion without including the most crucial aspect of Li-Ren culture— one’s hair. Every Li-Ren has uncut hair, the cutting of hair for men something more for foreigners. It is usually when speaking to them, even my gender has been constantly confused and assumed based on my hair alone. As a child, hair can be worn or cut however they want - it is by the parent’s hand the hair is being cut, anyway. However, upon reaching adulthood, one’s hair is to remain uncut until death. We have been taught from youth that our bodies - to every bit of hair and of skin - are bestowed to us by our parents, not something to be injured or wounded. However, just because it is uncut doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with it’s own elaborate styles.
Upon reaching adulthood, a young man ties his long hair into a bun either on or behind his head. Having half of his hair down provides a youthful look, and I have seen much of the youth adopt this style - including myself. However, the topknot is something that always remains untouched. A hair stick called Zan 簪 goes across that bun in order to stabilize the hair. When one happens to be more privileged, they will use a guan 冠 to hold their topknot. If not wearing their hair down with their topknot, Li-Ren men adopt hats and headdresses over their hair, a display of either the wearer’s profession or social rank.
It is the women, in almost every culture it seems, that do the most with their hair - even from youth. The most popular style among young girls, the Shuang Ya Ji 双丫髻, The Double Maiden Bun, is practically the symbolism of youth, and I have always seen, even when I was in my youth, the style worn by girls in their teens or much younger. The trending style consists of two buns atop the head, one on the left and one on the right. After reaching adulthood, foregoing coming-of-age ceremonies, or even getting married, women tend to give up these youthful double bun or loop styles, instead either putting up their hair into single buns fixed with jade hairpins, flowers, and other accessories, a look more mature and refined, or letting it flow down, accessories decorating the very top of their heads.
As it stands this moment, I believe I have only scraped the surface of the extensiveness of Li-Ren fashion and its history. Like all fashion, with all the influences that face it, it is someday bound to change. As an old man with experience - and somewhat of a bias for the days of his youth - I hope that day does not come soon. A though even more worrisome - I hope that the coming influence does not come from the common cultures of the continent. Each beautiful style of the hanfu has survived for so long by being completely and utterly Li-Ren. Being on a different continent, away from your homeland - it instills a feeling of assimilation, and it will show in the fashion influences of the future should it go down that route. But, what will keep us prosperous is our unwavering pride for our culture, and the generation coming will keep it going for the years to come.
Penned at the hand of,