In China, a distinctive traditional dress is still worn by many at formal occasions. However, for everyday life, clothing has been modernized and, in many circles, westernized to make it more practical.
There are three types of traditional clothing in China. All of these items use few stitches and are loose fitting with large sleeves. They are normally dark in color with intricate tapestry sew over the top.
The pien-fu looks like a tunic and is a two-piece ceremonial costume that is made up of a knee-length top and an ankle-length skirt or trousers. The ch'ang-p'ao is a one-piece long garment that goes over the shoulders and flows down to the feet. The shen-i is similar to the pien-fu in that in comprises a tunic and a skirt or trousers. However, unlike the pien-fu, the two items are sewn together.
Today, clothing in China uses a mix of traditional and modern ideas. Traditional motifs such as lions, deities and Chinese opera characters are often printed, woven or embroidered onto fabrics. Dragons, phoenixes and lightning are popular designs, particularly among the younger generation.
At formal occasions women often wear the ch’i-p’ao, which is a modernized form of the traditional Ching Dynasty dress. This can come in a variety of widths, heights and lengths to suit all shapes and sizes. The skirt, sleeves and collar are often personalized with embroidery to make the garments distinctive. Men normally wear a traditional Chinese gown.
Belts, necklaces and hair ornaments are increasingly becoming popular in Chinese culture. This is part of the Westernization of traditional Chinese cultural dress brought about by the opening up of China in the 1970's.
In 2001, China joined the World Trade Organization, and on Jan. 1, 2005, the final set of quotas on the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC) were abolished. Since these events, China's share of world textile trade has increased. According to the Congressional Research Service, between 2004 and 2005, world clothing exports increased by 6.4 percent but, in the same period, China's clothing exports increased by $12.3 billion, or 19.9 percent. China has now become a key player in the U.S. clothing market. Since 2001, China has overtaken Mexico as the leading supplier to the United States, increasing its market share from 11.9 percent in 2001 to 22.6 percent in 2006.