Do you live in a place where it gets hotter than hell’s armpit during the summer? Do you absolutely hate the summer sun and the heat that comes with summer vacation? Do you want to look fabulous as a way to console yourself about the horrible heat wave coming on? Then look no further! Here are some ways to keep cool in hanfu during the summer.
First let’s talk about different styles of hanfu that are more or less good for the summer heat. Some hanfu tend to work better during the summer than others, as some are most suited to cold weather just by virtue of the cut of the clothing itself, while some are automatically cooler. Let’s go over some of the hotter styles of hanfu.
One style of hanfu to avoid is the Ming dynasty aoqun. While very elegant and beautiful, the double-layered aoqun is often thick and heavy with tightly knit fabric and a lot of shapes that don’t allow air to pass through. For example, pipa sleeves, the usual sleeve shape for the ao or top of Ming dynasty clothing, is sewn shut up to the wrist, and doesn’t allow a breeze through, trapping all your body heat close to your arms. Similarly, the mamianqun skirt that usually comes with these sets are usually heavy, close to the body, and tightly pleated on the sides, which can get sticky and uncomfortable.
Since the Ming dynasty was during the Little Ice Age, most Ming dynasty clothing tends to be on the thick side and pretty unbearable in the heat. Even the summer wear during the Ming dynasty tends to be pretty warm, more suited to the fall than the height of summer. The clasps are hard to undo and a lot of sets even come with extra layers underneath the ao, the skirt, and over the ensemble as a vest/jacket. I advise people to avoid Ming dynasty clothing during the summer.
Another style that may come as a surprise is certain styles from the Tang dynasty. This is on a case-by-case basis, of course, given how many different kinds of clothing there are in the every flamboyant Tang dynasty, but the nature of a lot of Tang dynasty clothing—layers upon layers upon layers—can make the heat hard to bear.
While a lot of the fabric tends to be light and flowy, Tang dynasty skirts are often layered with several layers of solid and sheer fabric to create a more ethereal look, and there are often more than three or four layers of fabric on top (a basic piece across the chest, a narrow sleeved shirt, a short sleeved beizi, and a wide sleeved jacket) and also things like pibo and thick hair accessories that can really make you sweat, so it might not be a good idea to put all that on in the heat.
The heziqun, which has gained massive popularity in the past few years, also often has tassels and thick embroidery that thicken and warm the fabric, though some simpler pieces are usually pretty okay.
While layers on layers is obviously hot, I also wouldn’t recommend wearing things that are too close to the skin, even in one layer. Styles of hanfu with fejixiu or narrow sleeves are examples of this. If you must, either layer a thin beizi on top or choose a more neutral color. Lighter or brighter colors tend to show sweat marks more easily, especially when they’re very thin and worn right next to the skin.
A couple of other styles include the daxiushan from the Northern and Southern dynasty (thick lining and too many layers), cross-collar linen tops from the Wei and Jin dynasty (too thick), and yisan (too many layers AND too thick, especially since you have to wear trousers and boots with it).
Now that we’ve talked about what not to wear, let’s take a look at some styles that are perfect for a summertime photoshoot!
The first one that comes to mind is the Song dynasty beizi. These kinds of beizi often have much shorter sleeves, only going 3/4 of the way down the arm, and are usually made with thinner, simpler fabrics. Since simple elegance was valued during that dynasty as well as textile technology, there are a lot more thin and smooth fabrics to choose from that tend to be kinder to your sweaty skin.
The poqun, the broken fold skirt that usually comes with Song dynasty hanfu, also doesn’t have as many layered folds as a hundred-fold or horse-face skirt, so they also tend to be lighter, though they do stay a little closer to the skin. Also, a lot of Song dynasty clothing comes in light pastels and sheer outer layers, which don’t absorb as much heat as black fabrics do.
Previously I talked about how Tang dynasty layers aren’t always the most ideal. Thankfully, Tang dynasty women were very much adept at beating the heat. The Tang dynasty was pretty much the most liberal and open-minded dynasty in history, and many women walked around with only one layer on top—the chest piece, the diaodai, zhuyao or moxiong, which resembles a sort of tank top or bodice, which acted similarly to a bra or bodice. There are no sleeves at all and they’re usually held up by straps or just friction.
Paired with a relatively light skirt, this can be a great way of enjoying Tang dynasty style without getting heat stroke. You can also experiment with removing some of the layers and wearing just the short sleeved beizi by itself or just the tank and the wide sleeved jacket, which is often sheer.
Some other options include short hanyuansu (modified hanfu) skirts, thinner versions of the daopao and yuanlingpao (since you can control what you wear underneath and it’s usually only a single layer thick), ‘fairy’ or ‘ethereal’ style hanfu (usually not that many layers and made with thin polyester). Err on the side of light and simple in the summer.
SOME OTHER THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
Obviously summer hanfu isn’t only limited to the ones I mentioned! Here are some tips to choosing hanfu for the summer and predicting how cool they’ll feel when they’re on your body.
First let’s talk about color. As a rule of thumb, dark colors absorb heat form the sun, lighter colors reflect heat from the sun. Look for pastels and neutral colors that aren’t too black or jewel-toned, they’ll most likely be more comfortable in the heat. Also consider sheer fabrics: one one hand, some sheer fabrics are a lot more breezy and breathable, but they also won’t offer much sun protection and can sometimes have a slightly rougher surface. If you’re going to be using sheer fabric, make sure that it’s on the outside, layered over something on the inside, as it can add a lot of dimension to a simple outfit.
Pay attention to fabric, too! Most hanfu is made of polyester, since polyester is very versatile and easy to find, which can vary in its feel, but there are a lot of ways of weaving polyester that can make a big difference. Cooler fabrics like chiffon, silk, tencel, rayon, and linen are the best for the summer: look for a ‘flowy’ element to the fabric designs and a bit of shine to the fabric, which can indicate a smooth satin pattern that feels nice on your skin. Avoid flannel, wool, thick cotton, double-layered fabrics, thick embroidery, and metallic thread (metallic print is okay, thread can be irritating to the skin especially in the heat).
Don’t forget that you can always remove layers from an outfit if there are too many. Also don’t forget your accessories! While a lot of us carry fans for the aesthetic, they are in fact fans, and honestly do wonders for hot temperatures—they pack a lot more wind than you might think. Folding fans are the most portable, but round or flat fans are easier to hold and move.
Don’t wear wigs or extensions in the summer, your head will thank you. Instead, try a simple bun or small hair buns, maybe a couple of hairpins to add some detail and volume. Most of your body head is dispersed through your head, so put up your hair to let more heat to dissipate.
That’s all for now, hope you guys drink lots of water and remember to take breaks in the safety haven of air conditioning often! Have a great summer everyone!
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