It’s prom season! Now, I know that the age group for prom is pretty small, but I’m going to prom in an outfit of my own this year (I’ll be uploading an outfit analysis of it once I’m done arranging everything in a separate article) and I thought I’d compile a few ideas for anyone else to follow in my steps. This doesn’t only include prom, of course—homecoming, other formal or semiformal occasions (if it’s black tie or has a really strict dress code play it safe and don’t do something too extravagant), etc. are also great places to show off your hanfu.
Matching Ming Dynasty Sets
One popular tradition for prom is to match your prom date’s outfit when you go to prom. There’s lots of ways to do this—for western clothing, many people match ties to their date’s dress or vice versa, and a couple wearing both feminine and masculine coded clothing also looks very charming—but, luckily, this tradition matches with a common hanfu trend: couple’s outfits, or CP outfits, as they’re often called.
This isn’t just for official couples, of course—plenty of friends, siblings, and the like also wear CP outfits for fun. Some of the most popular and beautiful CP hanfu are based in Ming dynasty fashion, as the way that Ming dynasty hanfu is shaped allows for outfits of similar fabric but contrasting shape to be worn.
Of course, don’t forget that CP outfits can come from any dynasty, and that they can be worn by anyone! While most Ming dynasty CP outfits involve an aoqun and yuanlingpao meant for a female and male couple, you can wear whatever you want to, whenever you want to—after all, yuanlingpao have been androgynous since the Tang dynasty, and plenty of clothing, like the ruqun from other dynasties, are very androgynous, just remember that sometimes sizes meant for men or women aren’t exactly equivalent and to check the sizing chart so you don’t end up with something that doesn’t fit. If you don’t like CP outfits available, you can always just buy two of the same set in your respective sizes, or simply match colors.
Dressing up for prom isn’t just for the ladies! Men’s prom clothing usually involves a tux or a suit, but for anyone who wants to switch it up, why not consider wearing a yuanlingpao to prom? These have often been regarded as pretty formal robes and many vendors sell them in beautiful, luxurious fabric, with a lot of options for both people who want to stay lowkey and people who want to spice it up a little.
Yuanlingpao isn’t just for men, either—if any ladies or feminine-identifying people prefer to dress on the masculine side or just enjoy the handsome look of the round-collar robe, this can also be an awesome alternative to a regular prom dress. They can also be a lot more comfortable than suits are, and they’re statement pieces for sure.
Northern-Southern Dynasty Daxiushan
A lot of people like to show off a little bit more skin on prom night—after all, most people are nearing 18 or already 18, and it can be an exciting time to wear something formal and a little on the sexy side. Since most hanfu involves lots and lots of layers and not a lot of opportunities to show off your figure, some people might want a better option. The daxiushan styles from the northern-southern dynasties, though, are a graceful but sultry alternative that’s both elegant and a little daring.
The way that the edges daxiushan slides slightly off of the shoulder and the chest piece is generally pretty low-necked allows the collarbones and neck to be bared, as well as a little bit of cleavage if you’re bold enough. It also accentuates a high waist and long legs, which shows off the figure without being really skin tight. Much of the time the daxiushan is paired with either a moxiong, a tank-like top that goes under the daxiushan, or a heziqun, which is kind of a dress that mimics the look of a moxiong but in one piece and on the outside. These often come with tassels that move beautifully as you move or embroidery that brings attention to your collarbones, waist, and hands.
Wide Sleeve Beizi
Here’s a little bonus add-on to the last point! A similar effect that’s not quite so baring is this kind of moxiong-style hanfu paired with a beizi, or a long sort of jacket, also with large sleeves. It shows less skin and is easier to pull up to your shoulders if it’s cold, but since the beizi piece on the outside isn’t tucked into the waistband like it is in the northern-southern dynasty daxiushan, it’s easier to take off completely for bare shoulders or slip it off your shoulders for a similar look if you want to. Often these also come in luxurious fabrics like silk and with beautiful embroidery—there are numerous variations to choose from, maybe more than the northern-southern dynasty daxiushan, since they’re a little more popular.
Tang Dynasty Pibo
Want to add a little rhythm to your outfit, or a little extra detail? Plan to dance? Look for outfits that include Pibo, a long, elegant sort of sash or scarf of fabric worn around the shoulders or elbows. They really send a good outfit through the roof! Look for hanfu sets that have a pibo in matching fabric—they work best with matching fabric to the skirt or inside top of your hanfu (not the outerwear like the daxiushan or beizi, since they often overlap with it and you want some contrast in your outfit). These outfits also tend to have brighter colors and more vibrant fabric.
While the pibo was most prominent during the Tang dynasty, it’s also often offered in conjunction with clothing more reminiscent of other dynasties like the Song or Wei and Jin dynasties. They sway with you as you move elegantly and can also be used as a scarf if you get a little cold—there are a thousand different ways to wear them: over your shoulders, one side tucked into the waist or chestband, around the neck, in the crook of your elbow, and more. They look especially good with heziqun or chest-high ruqun to add some detail to the long line of your outfit.
Song Dynasty Ruqun
Those looking for more simple elegance can spring for simple designs and luxurious fabrics, focusing on the quality of material and a slender, willowy silhouette. There’s still a range of these, of course, and accessories can be added over the shoulders, around the waist, etc. to accentuate the outfit, but for those who prefer solid colors and less flashy or complicated patterns will find this dynasty’s hanfu most suitable. They also tend to be easier to move around and dance with, since there’s less extra fabric to be hauled around.
Modified Hanfu for Prom
Lasetly, traditional hanfu is great, but there are always things that we can change to suit our own needs. If you want to do a little matching between hanfu and modern wear, that can also look really cool—that’s what I’m doing with a mamianqun and a satin shirt this year! Aside from just putting different pieces from western and traditional clothing together, though, here are a few other ways to blend both cultures into one prom outfit.
For example, accessories are often overlooked, but they shouldn’t be! Floral hairpins are sure to make your hair look beautiful, and they’re also really light and easy to put in, unlike a lot of the clips that western hair flowers use.
This modified skirt allows you to move around much more easily—you definitely won’t be stepping on your skirt while dancing in this one. For those who want more freedom of movement, modified hanfu can be easier to work with than traditional long flowy skirts.
These are only a few options for prom—really, especially these days, the sky’s the limit! I’ll be sure to share my outfit when I’m finally done with it, and if anyone decides to take inspiration from this article please let us know and share what you’ve come up with. Hope everyone with the chance to go to prom has fun this year, whether or not they go in hanfu!