This paper examines the basic design theories underpinning contemporary Chinese fashion by exploring a fundamental question: are there any common features that can be summarized about Chinese fashion, and, if yes, what is Chinese fashion? Chinese fashion in this paper means clothing that is in “Chinese” style and designed by People's Republic of China (PRC) designers. To answer the specific question, I undertook in-depth interviews with selected Chinese designers and then supplemented these with a textual analysis of interviews published previously in prominent Chinese fashion journals.
This study shows the Chinese style exhibiting features of “implied beauty” in aesthetic, flat form in shape, and harmony in spirit. I synthesize the three features into one Chinese character, HE. HE literally encompasses rich meanings: harmony, peace, implicit but evoking, reserved, pure, natural, and any synonyms of these words. The character indicates an implied beauty system of China—presenting the beauty in an implicit and subtle form. Implied beauty urges viewers to imagine the beauty that is between visibility and invisibility under the clothing, rather than to sense the beauty by directly seeing the body of the wearer through the eyes. The primary form in Chinese style clothing as a reflection of implied beauty is the flat form, meaning that the clothing is cut without any darts or seam lines to reduce the volume differences between the bust line, the waist line, and the hip line. The cutting hides body rather than reveals body. Finally, in spirit Chinese fashion reflects the core Chinese philosophy of harmony, which means being in tune with both the social and the natural environment.