OTTAWA—A fashion show featuring stunning ancient Chinese attire delighted Ottawa Convention Centre visitors Saturday as it took them on a journey to ancient China that told of the elegance and majesty of that period in dress as well as in tradition and values.
The beauty, the elegance, the peace, the sense of fellowship around it—that’s really what struck me.
“I thought it was spectacular, not only because of the costumes, which were amazing, but because of the knowledge that’s being shared through the show about all of the dynasties,” said Denise Leroux, who took many photos of the models.
The Han Couture Fashion Show attracted many shoppers at noon just outside the annual Signatures artisan gift show featuring professional Canadian handmade products.
The fashion showcase explored the unique styles of five different dynasties—Han (206 B.C.–A.D. 220), Jin (A.D. 265–420), Song (A.D. 960–1279), Ming (A.D. 1368–1644), and Tang (A.D. 618–907).
Host Arnaud Camu noted that while China comprises many ethnicities, the most prevalent has been the Han ethnic group.
He explained the term Han couture.
“Han couture refers to the garments and dresses worn by the Han people in China from over 4,000 years ago up until the 17th century, with the end of the Ming Dynasty,” he said.
Visual Feast, Timeless Virtues
Audiences were treated to a visual feast of styles worn by a variety of figures from ancient times, including scholars, aristocrats and their wives, and an empress and a prime minister.
The colourful collection reflected a diversity of designs that varied from one period to the next, although all had in common wide sleeves, loose gowns, and flat, open collars folded to the right.
It was very soothing—the music, the costumes, the movements. It all flowed so nicely.
“The beauty, the elegance, the peace, the sense of fellowship around it—that’s really what struck me,” Leroux added, speaking to the principles of traditional Chinese culture expressed through the clothing.
Camu explained that all Han couture has a straight seam in the middle of the back, which represents righteousness in the wearer’s character.
“Moral values were embedded in the making of Han couture. Other virtues reflected include kindness, loyalty, courteousness, wisdom, and faith,” he said.
As another example, the hat of the Tang Dynasty prime minister is lower in the front and higher in the back, conveying the high-ranking official’s humility and openness to inviting more talented individuals to the emperor’s court.
The show closed with a glimpse into a Tang ceremonial scene, which highlighted the close connection between Han couture culture and each dynasty’s etiquette culture.
“It is built upon the ancient Chinese values of benevolence, righteousness, courtesy, wisdom, and loyalty,” said Camu.
“In the highly hierarchical society of ancient China, people maintained standards of self-discipline and restraint,” he noted as he explained the scene showcasing the interactions among a scholar, a minister, a dancer, and the empress.
Magnificence of the Culture
Like Leroux, other audience members were impressed by the striking imagery as well as the stories and concepts from history that were presented.
“It was very soothing—the music, the costumes, the movements. It all flowed so nicely, and the costumes are beautiful,” said Stacey Cronin.
“It was absolutely stunning, the show and the costumes as well. The history [explained] in the show is beautiful,” Terry Fanning said.
Nabor Fuentes and Yaneth Mahecha similarly enjoyed the show.
Mahecha said she appreciated how it gave her a bit more insight into traditional Chinese culture.
“We enjoyed the dress and how we can see the magnificence of that time,” she said, adding, “What I am wondering right now is why we lost that at a certain point in history.”
“Really professional, the way they presented it,” Fuentes said. “They know how to wear the dresses, how they walk, how they present the culture.”
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