1890 - 1900s Han Dynasty Chinese Embroidered Wedding Apron Skirt

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This is an exquisite, unworn, antique Chinese silk damask wedding skirt (Han) from the late Qing Dynasty (1840-1911). These Chinese skirt styles or mamianqun are often called aprons and are typically comprised of two identical sections, this one having an elaborate embroidered decorated panel on pink silk, a white brocade side panel and a honeycomb pleated or gored panel. Only Han women wore these skirts, not the Manchu women of the ruling Qing dynasty. They were worn overlapping, wrapped around the body and secured through fabric loops and knotted buttons. The two sections are attached to a wide plain waistband, most likely made of cotton or hemp. On formal occasions, Han women wore a half-length jacket accompanied by trousers and paired with a panel skirt or apron. Panels were only embroidered to where the jacket reached the skirt and Han working women often wore trousers without skirts, as did unmarried women. We’ve attached a hand-coloured photograph to show how the garment would have been worn – circa 1900.

The embroidered panels and contracting trims depict flowers, fruits, and butterflies all of which represent auspicious symbols and good luck charms. The flowers represent every season: the lotus in summer, the chrysanthemum in autumn, the plum in winter, and the peony in spring. The butterfly was known as the Chinese Cupid. The birds depicted include the crane, a symbol of longevity; the pheasant, a symbol of wealth and good wishes; and mandarin ducks, a symbol of marital happiness. This is a very beautiful and elaborate example which was almost certainly made for a bride in the latter part of the Qing Dynasty. Condition is absolutely extraordinary, and it has been very carefully preserved. Both panels are remarkably fresh and without damage, thinning or any age markings. Worthy of museum acquisition or for a Chinese costume or textile collector. It has been in Circa’s collection many years and was acquired from a family whose forebears were in the Diplomatic service.

Length - 42.5 in. (107.9 cm)