Chinoiserie



During the eighteenth century Europeans coveted Chinese imports and developed an intense interest in Chinese clothes, porcelain, tea, and other items. These items were known as chinoiserie. Europeans imported thousands of bolts of cloth to make Chinese-style clothing and wall and window coverings. European textile manufacturers learned Chinese dyeing techniques and soon printed cloth with Oriental scenes of pagodas, temples, and other Chinese-inspired objects. In addition, Europeans began dyeing cloth in colors once only seen on imported Chinese fabrics, including a pale golden yellow and a light green, called "Chinese green."

Some clothing styles imitated the Far East. The most popular was the banyan, an informal robe, worn by men at home instead of a justaucorps, or a suit coat. Some styles of banyan looked very similar to the cheongsam worn in early Asian cultures. The robe had a stand-up collar, long sleeves, and its opening crossed over the chest to tie just under the right shoulder. Other banyan styles imitated Indian jackets that buttoned up the front and were called Indian gowns. Banyans were made out of expensive silk or printed cotton. They were so popular in the late eighteenth century that many wealthy men had themselves painted wearing a banyan and cap instead of more formal clothing, which had been the norm for centuries. Other oriental styles and patterns would become popular in future eras, including the 1920s and the 1980s.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Halls, Zillah. Men's Costume: 1750–1800. London, England: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1973.

Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

[ See also Volume 2, Early Asian Cultures: Cheongsam ]



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