Fashion and Textiles
This gallery explores Asian histories, cultures, and identities through fashion and textiles. In their choice of what to wear, people reveal their ideas about religion, class, status, gender – and personal taste. Going beyond national dress, it shows how styles commonly associated with one region often incorporate styles from another.
In Asian port cities, the movements of people, exchanges of goods, spread of ideologies, impact of colonialism, and changing technologies have left lasting legacies in fashion. Techniques, designs, materials, tailoring, and silhouettes were borrowed and adapted across cultures.
Broadly, this gallery addresses three questions: What textiles do people wear and use in different parts of Asia? How have fashion and textiles in Asia responded to world changes? How have styles and materials from Asia impacted the world?
The first display in this gallery features highlights from the Chinese textiles collection of Chris Hall. Collecting since 1978, Chris Hall has amassed one of the most important private collections of Chinese textiles. Highlights were shown at ACM in the 2005 special exhibition Power Dressing: Textiles for Rulers and Priests. The current display probes deeply into this rich collection to explore issues around dress as China entered into the 20th century, across three sections:
Fashion Revolution: Chinese dress from late Qing to 1976
Within a century, from the late Qing dynasty to the end of the Cultural Revolution (1966–76), Chinese dress experienced a fashion revolution in materials and design. This display presents Chinese dress as diverse and evolving, dynamically reflecting a century of drastic political, economic, and socio-cultural changes. Dress and bodies – especially women's bodies – became objects of intense debates about nationhood, modernity, gender, style, and identity.
Hierarchy, modernity, uniformity
Three chronological sections, beginning with the late Qing period (1820–1911), show the evolution. In the early years of the dynasty, the Manchu rulers decreed a rigid dress code at court to signify rank – and to add elements of their outsider cultural background. In the last years of the Qing dynasty, however, the rules were challenged. During the Republican period (1912–45), after the old imperial order had crumbled and an influx of democratic and Western ideas, sartorial expressions became extremely varied.
Exuberance, then repression
The new fashions embodied ideas of modernity and nationalism, giving rise to new styles, including the iconic qipao. Under the leadership of Mao Zedong (chairman, 1949–76), ideals of an equal Communist society swept through China, and Chinese dress narrowed to a few uniform designs, including the iconic “Mao suit”, obliterating differences in style, gender, and class.
About Mr Chris Hall
Chris Hall has been collecting Chinese textiles since 1978 and has accumulated one of the best collections of Chinese textiles in the world. The collection covers all types of Chinese textiles dating from 500 BC to the 21st century. Chris has written articles on Chinese textiles and frequently gives lectures about them. Chris was born in the Sudan in 1952 to British parents. His father was working in the British colonial administration at the time. Chris has also lived for a short time in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Malta, and Malawi. He is now based in Hong Kong, where he has lived for nearly 50 years, and works as an accountant specialising in international tax. Chris was educated in England at Framlingham College and studied history at Cambridge University.