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Anonymous China,
China Anonymous, Chinese
Woman's Skirt, 1870-1890
37 in. x 42 in. (93.98 cm x 106.68 cm)

Object Type: Textile
Technique: Woven
Period: Ch'ing Dynasty (China, 1644-1912)
Credit Line: Scripps College, Claremont, CA
Accession Number: T305

Embroidered yellow damask.

Object Description
A Han woman’s double-paneled skirt of patterned gold-colored silk damask attached to an undyed white cotton waistband. The bottom half of the skirt is heavily embroidered with polychrome satin stitching of flowers and butterflies. Applied black silk satin ribbons border the large panels and runs in vertical strips all around the skirt, creating the illusion of a pleated skirt. Presumably, this technique was used to save fabric. The reverse sides of the front and rear panels are lined in blue silk. The rest of the skirt is unlined.

Embroidery on the skirt is limited to the bottom half, the only half that would be visible once a calf-length robe was worn over it. The embroidered flowers are predominantly pink and purple peonies and plum blossoms, both popular motifs on women’s clothing. There are also numerous butterflies among the flowers, symbolizing happy marriages and longevity. It could also express harmonious coexistence in nature. Thin strips of satin-stitched embroidery depicting flowers and bats in shades of blue run alongside the borders of black satin.

Han women normally wore trousers, but would wear a skirt over them on formal occasions. The bright colors and dense flower and butterfly embroidery indicate that a young Han woman wore this in the spring on formal, unofficial occasions, because the skirt lacks common court imagery, such as dragons or phoenixes. Manchu women, in contrast, did not wear skirts, and wore long, full-length robes and vests on formal occasions instead.

- Written by Anna Gaumond, Scripps '09, Fall 2008; edited by Patricia Yu, Pomona '09, Getty Summer Intern, August 2008.


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