An elaborate silk tapestry with a blue background, and figures and floral designs on top.

China, Qing dynasty (1644–1911), Woman’s unofficial robe, late 19th century, Silk, metallic threads, Bequest of Margaret McMillan Weber in memory of her mother, Katherine Kittridge McMillan RBL51.423

Emblems of a Prosperous Life: Women’s Robes of Late Imperial China (1700s – 1800s)

July 14, 2018 - April 21, 2019
Gallery 218

In the 1700s and 1800s, aristocratic Chinese women wore sumptuous clothing in and out of court. At court, women’s attire was highly standardized; outside court, they had greater flexibility to choose styles and designs that matched their personal taste. Robes arranged with medallion designs were considered the most formal. Robes with overall scattered schemes were less formal, and robes with only decorative borders and plain grounds were the least formal. Floral imagery, already popular for hundreds of years, became increasingly realistic at this time. Many of these garments exemplify a fashion trend of the 1800s: cuffs and hems embellished with embroidered bands, which in turn were often edged with strips of brocaded ribbon.