Traditional Chinese wedding costumes can vary depending on where in China the bride and groom are married. Despite these differences, there are certain features that are characteristic to all traditional wedding costumes in China, regardless of which province or area they’re from. These features include fabric, color, designs and embellishments.
Traditional Chinese wedding costumes are fashioned from sumptuous silk. The “Qi Pao” bridal gown, traditional to Northern China, is fashioned from red silk and features intricate silver and gold brocade. The “Kwa” is an elaborately brocaded two-piece costume made of silk that’s traditionally worn by brides in Southern China. The Chinese groom traditionally dons a black silk coat over a brocaded silk robe.
Brocading is the traditional Chinese method of weaving designs into fabric. Instead of embroidery or printing patterns onto silk, traditional Chinese wedding costumes feature brocade designs.
Contrary to Western weddings, the color white is a symbol of death in Chinese culture and subsequently absent from Chinese weddings. The color red has long been revered in China as a symbol of good luck and strength, and is said to ward off evil spirits. The Chinese bride and groom traditionally don this color on their wedding day. The bride is most often decked out from head to toe in bright red, complete with a red scarf to conceal her face during the ceremony. The groom is traditionally dressed in black with red details, such as a red hem or a red scarf as an accent piece.
Dragon and Phoenix
The dragon and phoenix featured on so many traditional Chinese wedding outfits symbolize the union of male and female energies. The Kwa, Cheongsam and Qun Gua, which are all two-piece bridal outfits traditional to Southern China, typically feature lavish designs of a dragon and phoenix brocaded in gold.
The stand-up style of collar featured on almost every traditional Chinese wedding outfit is named after the Mandarins of Imperial China. The Chinese bride’s and groom’s wedding costumes have a mandarin collar.
Silk brocade slippers are the traditional footwear of the bride and groom in China. Decorative “China flats,” which are flat shoes with a Mary-Jane-style strap across the front, are also part of traditional Chinese wedding outfits.
Traditional Chinese wedding costumes are typically topped off with elaborate headpieces or crowns. The bridal crown often features brocading, tassels, beadwork and other embellishments. Crowns are worn less frequently by the groom, and are typically narrower than the bride’s crown.