Hey again everyone! I know a lot of you have been waiting for this article for a long long time, and here it is: a look analysis of my prom outfit, which you guys helped choose! I had a great time at our prom and got a lot of compliments on my outfit. I also went for a pre-prom photoshoot the morning of at a local botanical garden so that I’d have more photos to share with you guys. Here’s a few of my favorites!
All right, let’s go break down the outfit! We’ll go top-down, from my hair to my shoes.
I put my hair up in a pretty simple and smooth bun with a bajillion bobby pins and hair pins to keep it in place. I wanted to keep the hairstyle itself simple so the main attention could be on my skirt and also my hair accessories. I put some beautiful hair flowers I bought from Taobao in my hair.
They’re a combination of real dried flowers and fabric flowers, with large polyester roses sewn together and surrounded by dried sprigs of small buds and leaves. I did consider putting in more hair pins and sticks but decided to keep it simple—once again, to focus the attention on my skirt. Flowers in the hair are also quite androgynous by ancient chinese beauty standards, with nobility and elegance in young men being denoted by blossoms placed in the hair, and being gender fluid I decided to opt for flowers instead of very feminine pins.
I took my inspiration from the huadian and hongpie makeup that a lot of Tang dynasty women wore for my makeup. The main part of this was the little crescent of red artificial flower sprigs and mini pearl rhinestones that I placed next to my eyes with eyelash glue.
The story of the origin of the huadian is that one day a plum blossom floated onto a princess’s head and it started a new fashion, while the hongpie originated from a famous concubine’s scar from tripping and scratching her temple on the corner of a screen. I placed flower petals and thin stems in the place that a hongpie would usually be, next to the eyes, sort of combining the two fashions, and also incorporated a couple of loose pearls, which were possible face decorations in the Song dynasty, though they usually came in full strings by the cheeks.
We’re getting to the actual clothing now! For this look I decided to combine both western and eastern styles together, so my top was a little more traditional western style. The first layer I wore was a cross-collar zhongyi, or middle clothing, essentially the first layer of clothing worn before wearing the rest of a set of hanfu. This simple white piece featured a crossed collar, three tie closures (one on the inside and two on the outside), and straight sleeves (feijixiu). It was very comfortable and simple, as this is a piece I do wear pretty often and has silky smooth fabric. The only problem I encountered was that the collar would sometimes wrinkle and fall out of place, so I used a strip of fashion tape to stick the edge of the collar to my skin, and it was perfect!
For the second layer, I got this structured deconstructed half vest piece from Taobao. It has an extremely unique shape, with the lapels mimicking a suit that I always really liked since it gave me more of a boxy and androgynous structure. Half of the vest is cut out to reveal the shirt underneath.
My dear friend Jenny, the extremely talented seamstress and cosplayer that some of you may know better as @tofujun.cos on Instagram, was super kind and attached pieces of fabric from my skirt to the lapel and pocket flap of the vest, making the top and the bottom match really well (she also made a matching tie for my date, who will not be shown for privacy reasons, but shoutout to her and consider buying from her too, as she’s amazing at sewing and making hanfu too!). The vest also resembled a Tang dynasty cross collared short sleeve beizi layered over a narrow sleeved top, which I really liked, as it didn’t ruin the hanfu-inspired silhouette but still managed to bring in some elements of usual prom attire.
The grand centerpiece itself, the skirt! I polled the Newhanfu community in a post (as well as, like, a bajillion of my friends) to ask what mamianqun I should wear. I knew that I wanted a mamianqun, as it has a more recognizable silhouette than, say, the baizhequn (hundred fold skirt), and also it came more commonly in really beautifully embroidered fabric, so I looked for a few choices and put them up as options. The skirt I ended up choosing was this beautiful red mamianqun embroidered with the white and gold details of the qilin, or kirin in Japanese mythology, a Chinese mythological creature/god that’s often translated as the ‘Chinese unicorn,’ though it’s not a very accurate translation.
Qilin often herald the arrival or death of a wise ruler or great sage, often associated with purity, prosperity, and nobility. They are graceful cloven-hoofed creatures with a dragon-like head and either one or two horns, often depicted in ancient art wreathed in fire and smoke. The ones on my skirt were white and gold with silver manes, contrasting with the deep wine red of the rest of the dress, and golden flowers and clouds decorated the background.
Qilin have been my favorite Chinese mythological creature for a long time, and I was drawn to the rhythmic nature of the gold embroidery in the background, which gave me more of a regal, graceful feel than the other mamianqun I saw, which had more boxy and geometric patterns on them—rightfully gorgeous, but not whimsical enough for the look that I wanted this prom.
I chose the classic double-loop method to tie the skirt, as I wanted to keep the original hanfu silhouette on the skirt to contrast with the more European top. The fabric was absolutely beautiful and the skirt fit me perfectly, so I chose this skirt out of the two favorite skirts of all of you on the site who voted. Thank you to everyone who helped me choose my skirt!
Lastly is the shoes! I didn’t go very fancy for this one, as I am horrible at walking in heels and it didn’t feel right to be in heels or sandals for this outfit anyway. I opted for a pair of new ankle boots, which were wonderfully comfortable for me, which is really important since I have a high arch and shoes that don’t fit me right can cause big problems for me. The back of my boots had a suede patch that matched the manes of the qilin on my skirt, which was really nice, and my skirt was just long enough to flash the boots through when I walked. Boots were actually pretty common, especially for men, in the Hanfu period, so using modern boots didn’t take away from the full aesthetic and added a bit of edge to the outfit too.
I had an awesome time at prom, which was held in the San Francisco Exploratorium for us, basically a little nerd playground for all of us science enthusiasts to run around and look at, and I got a ton of compliments on my skirt—I even met someone else I never knew before who also wore a full hanfu set there! Overall I’m really happy with my fashion choice this year, and really thankful that I got to do this. Not only was this outfit more practical to move around in than a usual dress and also a lot warmer, it was a great way to express my own unique taste and androgyny. We’ll see what I come up with next year too. Hope you guys like this!
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