As a Chinese born girl who grew up in Europe, I've spent my share of costume parties, historical reenactments and geeky conventions in Western historical costumes. I'v been a musketeer, a pirate, a warrior princess... but somehow it always bothered me that my asian face didn't match those European costumes.
I still wear them, but now I found something I'm so much more confident in: Hanfu!
I've tried a few times before to make Chinese costumes, be it historical or fantasy. This is the first time I actuallly followed a dynasty, a pattern and so on.
So here it is, at the "Cidre et Dragons" festival in the North of France in septembre 2022, I dressed up my husband and myself as Zhuge Liang (诸葛亮) and his wife Huang Yueying (黄月英).
So if you are interested, here I'll try to break down my process in creating these costumes.
As it is the Three Kingdom period, I chose Han dynasty style hanfus. I wanted to use only natural fibers but let's face it, I didn't want to spend a lot of money on silk for a costume, and since the characters were supposed to be a prime minister and his lady, the fabrics still needed to look rich. So, sadly, I had to use polyester at some point.
Most of these fabrics I bought a while ago, way before I was interested in their compositions, they just looked good for what I wanted to do. The pink fabric is a satin crepe, the white must be made of acetate fibers judging by the smell of vinegar. The purple fabric used for bixi (蔽膝) and collar edge is a polyester jacquard. The zhongyi are made of white linen, a really nice one that felt so comfortable I wanted to wear them all the time!
I used these 3 patterns from our website:
I traced these patterns on a patterning paper according to the measurements provided, without being super precise. Since the shapes are pretty geometrical, it was easy to redraw them. The pieces were big though, I ended up crawling on the floor most of the time.
Tips: if you have kneepads for volleyball or handball practices, now is a good time to use them!
I adapted the Quju pattern to make pipa sleeves instead of broad. I prefer this shape, and you could potentially stuff things inside this way.
I cut out every piece in pink satin, except sleeve and collar edges in the purple jacquard. I sew every pink piece together with a French seam, since there wouldn't be a lining and satin frays a lot. It was tricky around the round shape of the sleeves, maybe I could have done a better job had I ancipated it.
I used interfacing for some parts of the collar, to give it a little stiffness. I then attached the collar and sleeve edges to the robe right side together with a machine stitch and finished the whole under side of the seam with a hand sewn felling stitch. That was the longest part! Then I made a simple belt, with interfacing as reinforcement.
For the gentleman's shenyi, I made no alteration to the pattern.
Since the fabric was thicker and there was 12 (!) panels for the skirt part, I didn't have the courage to do French seams with this one! I just did a zigzag stitch to finish the seams. Same process to attach the edges, with machine stitches on one side and hand stitch on the other.
As you can see in the first picture of this article, Zhuge Liang wears a sort of bijia/banbi. This I whipped up the evening before the event, so not the best finished project. I used a blue polyester, I think it was crepe, and used a silvery trimming I had laying around. The blue fabric turns out to be a little stretchy, so some part of the trim is all wobbly and wrinkled, I'll fix it later (or never...)
And of course, a slightly more ornate belt for the minister.
I made 2 zhongyi for this project, it was quite interesting sinc you can directly learn from the mistakes of the previous zhongyi you made not so long ago. I used interfacing in the collar of the first one that was for me, but didn't use it in the second one, as my husband didn't want anything sticking up to his neck. Men, right? I actually prefered the non stiff collar to, in terms of how it looks in the final project. I think the inner layer was just not meant to have structure.
As I made them out of linen, I used the super long but quite efficient technique from Bernadette Banner, to make sure you are cutting really straight: with a needle, you pick out one thread of the fabric and pull it until the end of your piece, thus leaving a gap in the fabric that you can easily follow to really cut along one thread. Of course, depending on the quality of your linen, this particular thread will break several times, and you have to go look for it again with your needle. But in the end, I assure yo it is worth it. I encourage to do this on all your hanfu made of linen, since hanfu pattern have a lot of straight seams.
the hat was the trickiest part, since nowhere could I find any written document that describes how it was made! I posted a question in a group here, about the Zhuge Jin. So i ended up making my own interpretation, with a lot of modern material like cardboard and the plastic ties you usually find around the packaging of your furnitures, and staples.
I then added a few decorative cords and jewels. And voilà!
I really wanted to make the goose feather fan myself as well. But it was really too tricky, so I ended up buying one on Alliexpress. It wasn't that easy to find, but it looked good, although a little plastic-ey on the handle. Maybe I could have covered it with twine or something.
I also bought a bamboo slate book, the 36 stratagems. I figured the wife of such a bright mind, strategy genius and state minister as Zhuge Liang had to be educated in the art of war.
I made myself a little pouch that can be hung to a belt, for your phones, wallet and other modern stuff. I really recommend wearring a stiff belt under the decorative fabric belt of your hanfu. it much more sturdy to hang stuff from, the jade pendants, money pouches and even a gourd for water.
Hair and makeup
For my hairstyle I used all my own hair. I am lucky enough to have long straight hair so i took advantage. It's basically just loosely tied at the bottom, with a bun at the top. Complete with jewelery.
For the gentleman, the advantage of a male character who has a hat, is that they don't need to wear a wig. Think about it!
I'm not great with makeup, so I just did what I knew, not specific to the dynasty.
There, you have it, lmy friend, my whole process of creating these costumes. Boy that was a long article!
Thanks for reading till the end, I hope it helps you on your hanfu making journey! I'll gladly answer your questions in the comments. Take care!