Traditional Chinese clothing is different to Western dress. Even in China, traditional Chinese clothing differs from place to place. Here are some interesting facts about traditional Chinese wedding gowns.
For a traditional Chinese wedding, the bride’s gown is still made by traditional methods and contains metaphors and blessings. Miss Moon works at Fortune Embroidery — a specialty store for Chinese gowns in Hong Kong.
She says that in recent years, more couples have chosen to have a Chinese wedding. Whether a Chinese- or Western-style wedding is chosen, Hong Kong brides usually wear a Chinese gown consisting of a jacket and a skirt, and they serve tea to the elders.
Every place has its characteristic wedding clothing, and brides in Hong Kong wear a Chinese gown called a kua-qun. The upper part of this Chinese gown is called kua (jacket) and the lower part is called qun (skirt). The entire gown consists of nine pieces of fabric.
Five pieces make the jacket — two for the front chest, one for the back, and two for the sleeves. Four pieces are for the skirt — the left and right sides, the front, and the back. In Chinese, the word “nine” sounds exactly the same as the word “long,” and it symbolizes long-lasting marital bliss.
The most valuable traditional Chinese wedding gown is the “Kua King”
The process of making a set of kua-qun is to embroider the designs on the fabric first and then cut the fabric. The size of the pieces depends on the density of the embroidery. The basic fabric for a gown is red Japanese silk. The value of a kua is measured by the amount of embroidery on the fabric.
Of the various types of kua, the most valuable is Kua King, with delicate embroidery and golden colored designs covering almost all the raw red silk underneath. Miss Moon said:
“A piece of fabric is covered completely by embroidery, one stitch at a time. A machine cannot do that. In addition, the dragon and phoenix pattern protrudes slightly, and gives a 3-dimensional look from afar. In actuality, the fabric is flat, but a master’s hand can do wonders!”
Other types of kua can also be so dense with embroidery that one cannot see the red silk. Consequently, the less red silk that is revealed, the more expensive the gown will be. There are many varieties of kua-qun patterns.
The dragon and phoenix are symbols of auspiciousness, the peony is a symbol of prosperity, the pomegranate symbolizes many offspring, and mandarin ducks are a symbol of marital love.
One can also find goldfish, roses, the blessing rat, the lotus, and words of happiness. The name of a kua depends on the designs on the front panel of the gown. If a goldfish design is on the front panel, it will be known as a goldfish kua.
The more ancient the kua, the finer the workmanship
A set of kua-qun can easily last for decades. According to Ms Moon’s observation, a kua made 10 years ago looks more delicate and refined than one made now. She believes it is due to more refined materials used in making traditional Chinese clothing.
She has seen that the thread used in a 10-year-old kua is far more delicate than present day thread, and the older kua looks beautiful, even though the design is ordinary. At that time, the owner of the kua wanted to have it repaired, but Miss Moon could not work on it because such thin thread – thinner than a hair – is no longer available.
At Fortune Embroidery, a set of kua-qun would take at least four months to make. For more complex workmanship, it would take six to nine months. Kua King requires nine months to a year to complete. A simple set of kua-qun with gold and silver thread takes three consecutive days to finish and costs 1180 yuan.
More popular are “crystal kua” (using Swarovski crystal elements) and traditional “five-blessing kua” (using the rat design to symbolize the five blessings: longevity, wealth, good moral character, good health of body and mind, and peaceful death).