Global Times: Horse-face skirt sails overseas as unique Chinese cultural symbol
Global Times: Horse-face skirt sails overseas as unique Chinese cultural symbol

BEIJING, March 4, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — The horse-face skirt, or mamianqun in Chinese, is receiving renewed attention on the fashion stage. The architectural structure-inspired Chinese costume is seen as a social media engagement traffic magnet, worn by many influencers in photos at tourist attractions during the past Spring Festival, roughly a year since Dior’s plagiarism scandal surrounding the same skirt, a traditional Chinese skirt that dates back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

This attention has been seen beyond the domestic market, with news of “sellers owing customers more than 30,000 horse-face skirt orders” making headlines in China. In East China’s Zhejiang Province, a clothing company was inundated with a large number of mamianqun orders from overseas, especially from the Southeast Asian countries during China’s Lunar New Year period.

This phenomenon has caught the attention of many who realized that the horse-face skirt craze was expanding to overseas markets thanks to this unique cultural symbol.

Business insiders including many designers and merchants predict that the trend of horse-face skirts will perhaps last for two to three years, but how to sustain a momentum in reviving this traditional Chinese style on a bigger scale despite rapidly changing tastes is more worthy of attention.

Far from being photoshoot prop, wearing the horse-face skirt has become almost de rigueur among many Chinese celebrities and influencers for various international social occasions.

According to a recent report, in 2023, users on Chinese short video platforms from more than 90 countries and regions have content related to the horse-face skirt, making it a typical case of Chinese culture going global.

A standout representation

On Douyin, China’s TikTok, individuals who sport the horse-face skirt on city streets in Paris and other international cities can easily rake in millions of likes.

A popular blogger on Xiaohongshu appeared on a British television program to discuss the development of the English Premier League in China while wearing a horse-face skirt.

From its debut during the Song Dynasty to becoming a standout representation of Chinese attire, mamianqun has traversed nearly a millennium of history. In the current trend of traditional Chinese clothing revival, how has the horse-face skirt stood out to become the most prominent garment?

In 2022, Dior’s plagiarism led to accusations of “cultural appropriation” in the Chinese world, which also made many hanfu lovers begin to “disseminate knowledge about the skirt,” leading to a deeper understanding of traditional culture among more people.

Mao Zhaoxi, a Gen Zer who is a blogger and hanfu enthusiast, told the Global Times that many young people are familiar with the horse-face skirt due to the 2022 incident which led to a re-evaluation of this traditional Chinese garment.

“Hanfu is the external manifestation of culture, embodying the life philosophies, values, and aesthetic views formed and inherited by the Chinese people generation after generation,” said Mao.

“Many young people believe that the horse-face skirt is not just a fashion item, but also a cultural symbol. This signifies the awakening of traditional aesthetic genes among the younger generations, indicating that the confidence in our own culture is constantly increasing,” said Mao.

The front fly structure of the spinning skirt was the prototype of the horse-face dress, which was designed as a functional garment for women to engage in sporting activities: The pleats of the skirt naturally hang down when walking; and the pleats converge when standing, which is convenient for mounting and dismounting when riding a horse.

“Its most prominent features include the circular way it wraps around the waist, the overlapping layers and the side slit design, and the front and back opening at the crotch,” Mao explained.

With such an ingenious design for daily life, the skirt’s influence reached its peak in the Ming and Qing dynasties, and influenced the Chinese border and Southeast Asia.

Moreover, Hu Xiao, one of the founders of the ancient Chinese costumes restoration team in China, told the Global Times that one main reason that the skirt became an optimal choice lies in the fact that the horse-face skirt has managed to remain relevant, never falling out of fashion.

“Many people thought the horse-face skirt had disappeared for a while, but in fact, you can always see the style of mamianqun in the costumes of some local brides in the south,” Hu said.

‘Cultural DNA’

It’s not just the horse-face skirt; many Chinese-style designs have persevered and are often seen in international designs, especially in the oriental aesthetics representation seen in recent years.

The trends have also been reflected online. Topics like “New Chinese-style embroidery outfits” and “Why do young people like New Chinese style?” have both hit the trending lists.

On Douyin, videos tagged under “New Chinese Style Outfits” have garnered more than 10.6 billion views. Sales data from a Chinese e-commerce platform shows that since January 2024, the transaction volume of hanfu items such as the horse-face skirt has increased more than 300 percent year-on-year, and during the Spring Festival period, the transaction volume of hanfu items also increased by 325 percent year-on-year.

“The horse-face skirt possesses a strong sense of inheritance while also possessing fashionable attributes. This perhaps is the cultural DNA that enables it to become a fashion item, which may make it difficult for other hanfu styles to replicate,” noted Hu.

The momentum of Chinese-style clothing has begun, and how to lead the trend of Chinese-style clothing through design, and staying at the forefront of the national trend, is an issue that will not disappear in a short time.

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SOURCE Global Times

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