Saturday, December 8, 2012

Tang Dynasty Costume Sketches

Above are the colour schemes I decided to try out after much consideration. The (virtual) fabric swatches were mostly from, this Indian silk brocade store on ebay, and photos of cloth in Chinatown. Initially, I was quite excited by the idea of capitalizing on the introduction of Indian and Middle Eastern fabrics/motifs to Tang China, and thought about using Indian silk brocade in my design.

This was the first design I came up with, where the three main fabrics are Indian silk (sari) brocade. I really liked the combination of purple with cereulean green; however, I thought the Indian brocade might be too heavy for making the big sleeved robe. The weightiness of the robe and skirt in this design seems to stray a bit too far from the delicate, flowy opulence of the costumes in ancient paintings, which derived from the interplay of sheer/translucent fabrics with weighter embroidered materials.

So in the second design, I used oriental fabrics with a more subtle pattern and tried out using sheer fabric for the big-sleeved robe. I used Indian Sari embroidery for the sleeve and neck trimmings, and I think that worked rather well with the Chinese embroidery on the hezi. What I didn't quite like about this was the colour scheme, which is just too stereotypically Chinese.


Finally the purples. This colour scheme actually came about because I saw the brocade fabric in Spotlight and could not resist buying it. It's a special shade of blueish magenta; a rather rare colour for Chinese brocade, with delicate gold and silver floral patterns. Unfortunately, there was only 3 metres left on the roll, not enough to use for the skirt or big sleeved robe. The trim here could either be a gold Sari border, or lots and lots of iron-on embroidery patches stuck onto some purple fabric.

Which design did you like best?

I really loved the reds at first, then gravitated towards the cerulean green, but finally decided to go with the purples after checking out the fabric collection at Chinatown. Here are the swatches:

I still need to find some golden brocade and light green satin for finishing the edges of the hezi and making the ribbon. For now though, from left to right:

1) Chinese brocade (rayon, because it's cheaper than silk)
2) Red silk taffeta (trimming of inner robe)
3) Purple silk taffeta (skirt and possibly outer robe trimming)
4) Purple Silk satin (lining of hezi)
5) Pink/purple two-toned silk chiffon (not quite sure what to do with it yet, but it's gorgeous. It has to be used!)  
6) Chinese silk brocade (inner robe)
7) Gold organza (outer robe)

Next will be the pattern drafting, which I am not really looking forward to as it will necessitate Math.

In other news, a new Mainland drama called 梦回唐朝 (A Dream Return to the Tang Dynasty) is currently airing and it looks very promising, with beautiful costumes that show so much attention to detail. The episodes can be found on Youtube!


  1. Hmm, What I can beg is that you have wrote the best article I read compared to other blogs and articles. Just imagine that you have experienced this kind of thing in fabric warehouse your daily life and wrote it down in your blog, so I am sure you must pay attention to your life and learn everything it have taught to you. Just go on and enjoy your life.

  2. This is soooo coool!! I never thought to do swatch studies like this for my costuming or art! Your post came up because I've been scouring the internet for Tang dynasty hairstyles and clothing for a painting. In your research, have you come across specific colors associated with the moon in Tang-era or Chinese culture?

    Totally following you now! I love this post!!