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The costume is not only a big factor in the material life of human being, but also the important symbol of social civilization. Besides satisfying the living needs of people, it also represents the culture of a period and a district. In the modern times, owing to the decision of special era and region, the Shanghai fashion forms its sole style, occupies an important position in the developing history of Chinese costume.
In the rigidly hierarchic feudal society, the dress and costume of people are strictly normalized by the rite system, ordinarily promulgated by various dynasties, and carried on in various places according to the style. But there is difference in the modern times, following the collapse of the feudal system, the traditional costume system walks out from the historical stage, people can completely select their own favorite costumes according to what they like, the costume culture enters in an unprecedented booming and active era, one of the most apparent symbols is the appearance of fashionable dress. Shanghai becomes the popular and propagating center of fashionable dress, and enjoys the excellent reputation of "Eastern Paris". Beside the economic and political factors, the costume also has intimate relation with the prevailing custom, habit and cultural life of modern Shanghai.

At the beginning of Republic of China, the man costume mainly adopted the mandarin jacket and long gown. The mandarin jacket and long gown used as the formal attire all had certain form on style, material, color and concrete size. The color of the mandarin jacket and long gown used as the casual costumes had no limitation. During the beginning of spring or late autumn, people usually put a sleeveless waistcoat outside the long gown to replace the mandarin jacket.

Following the western wind gradually moving to the east, the men in Shanghai especially the staffs of many foreign companies firstly put on the western costume but not rejected the traditional costume, the mandarin jacket, long gown and western costume appeared concurrently. At the same time, the intellectual and young student out on a kind of simple western costume known as the "student's costume". Dr. Sun Yat Sen was very fond of such costume at that time; later on it was called honorably as "Zhong Shan Costume".

Entering in 1920s, the woman's costume of Shanghai gradually preferred gorgeous style, the most characteristic point was putting on Qi Pao (a close-fitting woman's Chinese gown with high neck and slit skirt) wid. Originally Qi Pao was a kind of dress put on by Manchurian women with full front and back etc. There were two reasons why many women were fond of such kind of dress: (1) economic and convenient, one suit of Qi Pao could substitute several dresses, and also greatly reduced the cost of material and workmanship. (2) Beautiful and fitting the body. Because of Qi Pao connected and combined the upper and lower parts of the body in one, it's easy to set off a woman's figure. At the beginning of 1920s, the style of Qi Pao was still not born out of the Qi Dress at the end of Qing Dynasty, but soon the cuff began to be restrained, the embroidered side was not as broad as before. Till the end of 1920's, owing to the influence by European and American costume, the style of Qi Pao changed apparently, such as reduced the length, tightened up the waistline.

As developing to 1930s, Qi Pao was very popular in various places. The style of Qi Pao in this period absorbed the peculiarity of western dress on the traditional basis, became a kind of Sino-western combined dress, brought forth new ideas and changed continuously. The host of making such a change was the costume circle of Shanghai.

Beginning from 1940s, the style of Qi Pao trended towards neatness, this peculiarity reflected most progressively in summer, generally canceled the sleeve, shortened the length, reduced the height of the collar, and omitted many over-laden decorations, made it more light and suitable for the body.

In 1950s and 1960s, people used to put on simple dresses, and the make-up was plain. Men used to take Zhongshan, Lenin and student dresses as the main dresses, women mostly put on the short Chinese style coats and skirts with the style of buttons down the front and narrow sleeves, the color of costume was popular in blue and grey. During the middle period of 1960s, the grass green color military uniform was very popular among the people, no matter male or female all liked it. After the reform and opening, the national economy has developed rapidly, people's dress and make-up gradually become exquisite. The men and women's costume develops towards personalization and fashionableness, and gradually connects the rain with international metropolis.


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