So you’ve been introduced into the world of hanfu culture, or maybe you’ve been part of the community for a while now. That’s great! Now, how do you plan to incorporate this beautiful aesthetic into your daily life?
For the boldest of us, we might be willing to just directly start wearing full sets of hanfu onto the streets, but most of us probably aren’t willing to step so quickly into the deep end.
Here are a few ways to show off this aesthetic in your daily life—unobtrusively enough that you won’t stand out too much, but definitely stylish enough to draw some appreciation!
Hanyuansu / Modified Hanfu ( 漢元素 / 改良漢服 )
The first, most obvious option is hanyuansu. Hanyuansu or gailiang hanfu is the name given to modified hanfu—hanfu that has been modernized or changed in some way to match mainstream fashion more closely, whether just for the thrill of blending aesthetic or for practicality (i.e., pockets, shorter skirts, shorter sleeves).
They resemble traditional hanfu (though technically all hanfu is modified a bit since we only have historical records to go off of that don’t tell us everything) in a lot of ways, usually featuring similar wrapped skirts, crossed collars, and pleats, but can vary in plenty of different ways! There are no limits on hanyuansu—you can find some of the most interesting pieces of clothing in this category.
Since they’re modified, hanyuansu usually blends in better with daily life and mainstream fashion than other sets. You can search hanyuansu on taboo or newhanfu to find some options!
Using Parts of a Hanfu Set
Already the owner of a few sets? Consider using parts of a hanfu set, mixed and matched with more mainstream pieces of clothing, to create a full outfit. The traditional flair typically becomes less obvious when you pair it with something more casual and modern, but still offers a unique touch to your outfit.
For instance, you can throw on the outer robe of a hanfu set, like a daxiushan or beizi, over your usual outfit for a thin outer layer for warmer days. A cloak will work in colder temperatures too, if you own one. Many hanyuansu sets also include traditional-looking outerwear over more typical outfits.
You can also borrow skirts from your sets to pair with a top. I find that mamianqun goes well with simple t-shirts, as they have beautiful embroidery and a more close-fitting silhouette that are highlighted by the way the fabric holds—stay with a more basic top so you can draw attention to your skirt.
Baizhequn are even more inconspicuous—they could almost pass for an accordion pleated skirt, but with a lot more volume and layers. Try matching one with a sweater or blouse, give it a spin, and watch the magic happen as your skirt flies out!
Tops will also work in a pinch, just pick ones that don’t have massive sleeves preventing you from getting done what you need to get done (or tie them up with a panbo if you like!). Pipa sleeves and closer-fitted sleeves are good choices for this. The cross-collar aesthetic can contribute to a hanfu aesthetic, so showing off your neckline is a good way to incorporate this style into other outfits.
The ao will also work as a sweater in the winter and usually keeps you quite warm. Wear it over a maxi dress, with a tennis skirt, or even with some flow trousers—you’ll look fabulously chic with a unique touch of tradition.
If you’d like to stay a bit more under-the-radar, consider just using hanfu-related accessories to spice up your outfits. A lot of hanfu sets also come with accessories, but buying them individually is also a lot cheaper than buying full sets. They’re great for a little extra taste of ancient chinese style!
One of my favorite accessories recently are yupei or yaopei, waist ornaments that people wear on their belts or skirts—you can see them in a lot of historical dramas or wuxia/xianxia shows as well as a fun accessory for hanfu enthusiasts. They’re usually beautiful pendants made of jade or glass with tasseled or knotted ends, and sometimes can be bejeweled or otherwise decorated.
You don’t only have to wear them with hanfu, though. Anything that you have a belt loop or belt on will also act as a perfect place to hang a waist ornament on, and they sway beautifully as you walk. Just thread the pendant into itself through the loop at the top after placing it through your belt or belt loop and it’ll stay in place.
Waist ornaments other than simple pendants exist, too! Hebao are another example of accessories usually worn at the waist—not only are they absolutely beautiful, they also serve practical purpose, as they’re basically the coin pouches or purses of olden times.
They’re usually made of shiny pleated fabric with a drawstring at the top and can be made in a lot of shapes—the most popular are usually half-circles or circles, but there’s also leaf and heart shaped ones for a more modern look, and can easily be incorporated into your daily outfit.
They can hold spare coins or your phone if you pick one big enough, or you can fill them with nice smelling herbs (or a sponge/tissue sprayed with perfume, take your pick) and bring your favorite scent wherever you go.
Moving on from the waist, there are also numerous handheld props available at your leisure! For warmer days, you can go for a fan—folding fans are super easy to carry around and opening them is always very satisfying, and round fans offer a simple elegance that will also give you a nice breeze to keep you cool.
Many fans come with a tassel or loop on the handle for easier transportation or storage, too, and are very easy to find, wherever you are, so they’re very accessible. For rainy days, also consider an oil-paper umbrella, a commodity in both chinese and japanese ancient culture.
Flowy outfits also go well with a pibo draped across your elbows, and jewelry of any variety is easy to find—look for jewelry with flower and ancient chinese motifs to compliment your aesthetic.
Hair and Makeup
Don’t forget the importance of hair and makeup to an outfit! It’s often overlooked, but can really complete a look. You’re probably not going to want to look like you just walked out of a Peking Opera, but you can give a subtle nod to ancient customs by using rose or warm-toned eyeshadow and red lipstick concentrated at the center of the lips for a rosebud-like silhouette rather than focusing on using lip color to widen the lips.
Huadian are also accessories you can consider, little marks meant to accessorize the forehead (no religious correlation here! Huadian are purely aesthetic). A sheet of them is very cheap and a lot of hanfu sets come with them as free gifts, they work like temporary tattoos—otherwise you can also just take a brush and some red eyeshadow or eyeliner and paint it on yourself, which is how it would’ve been done in the past.
As for hair, you’ve got a lot of options. Generally, the ancient chinese wore their hair completely up, but recent characterizations often depict characters and people with hair half-up half-down, a very popular style right now. Try copying the braids you see in pictures or shows.
There are also a lot of tutorials for various hairstyles available out there, both on Newhanfu and elsewhere—do a little digging and you’d be surprised how easily you can create some of these hairstyles. There’s something for all lengths of hair (unless you have a buzzcut), even without extensions, though those can be very fun to play around with too.
Hair accessories are also everywhere, and generally pretty inexpensive. A simple hair stick, for example, is great for those on the go—I wear them almost every day, and they’re very useful to keeping long hair up in a pinch.
More fancy hair pins and combs can be incorporated into simple hairstyles to spice them up a bit as well, for those who have a bit more time to spend. You can also tie an embroidered ribbon in a bow on a hair elastic to decorate your ponytail or bun.
Layering with Hanfu-Inspired Concepts
Lastly, if you don’t have any hanfu sets or accessories, you can of course make do with what you have! In the end, it’s the thought that counts, and you can take plenty of inspiration from ancient styles without owning a set made specifically for that purpose. That might seem confusing, but don’t worry, all you’re really doing is imitating the way that hanfu is layered—you’d be surprised with what you can come up with!
For example, often three-piece hanfu sets involve a pleated skirt, top, and jacket. Try a maxi accordion skirt with a tank top and an open cardigan to imitate this. Flowy pants can also replace skirts, and of course wide sleeves on anything can be paired with an outfit for more of an impact.
Thank you for reading about how you can incorporate the hanfu and gufeng aesthetic into your daily life! Hopefully you learned something and can start to subtly display your interest in this aesthetic in a way that makes you comfortable—who knows, maybe you’ll catch the eye of an admirer or two in the process!