Traditional Chinese Clothing for Men: Tang Suit 101

If you’re planning on wearing a traditional Chinese cheongsam or qipao at your wedding, consider suiting up your handsome groom in a Tang suit. Each year, more and more individuals are electing to wear traditional Chinese clothing, like cheongsams and Tang suits, on their wedding day. Below you will find the history and elements of a Tang suit as well as tips for finding you or your groom the perfect suit for the big day.

History

Tang Suit 101, History of the Modern Tang Suit or Mandarin Collar Jacket, East Meets Dress

The Tang suit, or Tangzhuang, counter to what its name suggests, did not actually originate in China’s Tang dynasty, but the name certainly celebrates this golden period in Chinese history. The design is derived from a traditional Manchu horseman uniform during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), incorporating the uniform’s open-front jacket and Mandarin collar.

Tang suits today evolved from this style, and in their construction, incorporate the Chinese symbols Fu (福), meaning happiness, and Shou (寿), meaning longevity — a popular way to express good fortune. These modern Tang Suits are often worn by Chinese expats to celebrate their culture and showcase the differing sartorial sensibilities of East and West. The Tang suit has also had a great deal of stylistic influence on the clothing of other East and Southeast Asian countries, including the traditional clothing of Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. They are viewed as a reflection of Chinese tradition combined with modern ideals.

Tang Suit 101, History of the Modern Tang Suit or Mandarin Collar Jacket, East Meets Dress

Modern Tang suits are increasingly being worn during special occasions, such as during Chinese holidays, festivals — particularly the annual Spring Festival — and, of course, weddings.  More and more modern grooms are choosing to sport Tang suits over traditional western style formal suit options, or decide to wear both at different points of the wedding celebration to unify Eastern and Western traditions.

Elements of a Tang suit

STYLE 

Tang Suit 101, History of the Modern Tang Suit or Mandarin Collar Jacket, East Meets Dress

The traditional Chinese Tang suit is characterized by an inner and outer layer. The outer layer consists of a mandarin jacket with a high mandarin collar, an unfolded collar style that extends on average 2-4 inches up the neck. Traditionally, the inner layer consists of a robe called a Changshan, but many modern grooms choose to skip the Changshan layer in favor of a dress shirt or undershirt. Modern Tang suits include symmetrical lapels across the front and knotted detailing, known as “frog” or pankou knots, serving as fasters rather than buttons. They come in various animal and floral designs and are made of silk wrapped around a stiff material such as copper wire to hold its shape.

MATERIAL

Tang Suit 101, History of the Modern Tang Suit or Mandarin Collar Jacket, East Meets Dress

Although sometimes made of cotton, silk is the preferred material for modern Tang suits, as it reflects the refinement and modesty of the Chinese people. Silk is a soft and luxurious fabric and China’s most distinctive textile, so the use of silk is also a mark of Chinese culture.

COLOR AND PATTERN 

Tang Suit 101, History of the Modern Tang Suit or Mandarin Collar Jacket, East Meets Dress

The mandarin jacket is usually adorned with a brocade-style pattern, with intricate gold or silver threaded appliques are common for special-occasion Tang suits. The bride and groom typically choose patterns that feature a phoenix or dragon (or both!) for their wedding qipao and Tang suit. In Chinese culture, the dragon and phoenix together symbolizes good luck and a harmonious marriage. Common suit colors include gold, black, green, navy blue, and red, which is most commonly worn at weddings because it is considered the luckiest color in Chinese culture.

Tang Suit 101, History of the Modern Tang Suit or Mandarin Collar Jacket, East Meets Dress

FIT 

Tang Suit 101, History of the Modern Tang Suit or Mandarin Collar Jacket, East Meets Dress

Chinese Wedding Tang suits should fit the body well and are often tailor-made, so it is suggested that grooms set aside enough time for suit fittings or alterations. For modern weddings, they are often coupled with black or navy dress pants or, if preferred, a pair of trousers made of matching material to the suit jacket, which often must be custom made.

Where to buy 

Tang Suit 101, History of the Modern Tang Suit or Mandarin Collar Jacket, East Meets Dress

So you want to wear a Tang suit, that’s great! But where exactly can you get one? There are a few reliable sources for finding the perfect Tang suit, the first being our own collection of traditional and modern Tang suits at East Meets Dress. At East Meets Dress, we offer a variety of brocade options and grooms have the option of selecting custom fabrics, and can even match the fabric of their suit to their bride’s cheongsam. Don’t worry about ill-fitting suits, because our Tang suits can also be made to measure for the most flattering fit. With us, you won’t have to deal with unreliable sites or third parties, and our quality customer service team makes sure you get your suit with ample time for your wedding.

For a cost-effective option, online Chinese retailer Aliexpress offers a number of Tang suit options, in a range of colors, patterns, and prices — many falling within ten to thirty dollars. Of course, ordering from sites like Aliexpress comes with the risk of receiving a drastically different product than the one ordered — something you may be familiar with if you’ve seen any viral online shopping fails from discount retailers. If you’re lucky enough to receive something you can work with, you can always have alterations made, granted there is enough time before the wedding.

If you live in a big city like New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco that happens to have a large and vibrant Chinatown, you may be able to find a number of local retailers and tailors where you can purchase either ready-made or custom Tang suits. Usually there are a wide range of options and this option can be just as cost-effective as ordering from Aliexpress, in fact, it may be an even better option, because you’ll be able to see, feel, and even try on the suits while you’re shopping.

 

Why wear a Tang suit?

Tang Suit 101, History of the Modern Tang Suit or Mandarin Collar Jacket, East Meets Dress

After reading up on Tang suits, maybe you’re still having reservations about wearing one to your wedding celebration. So, why wear a Tang suit? Wearing the Tang suit can be a way of honoring your Chinese heritage and traditions in a way that still feels modern and rooted in the present moment. If you don’t want to wear a Tang suit, check out the many ways to honor your Chinese culture detailed in our style tips for grooms. Some options include wearing a brocade tie or bowtie that matches the fabric of the bride’s cheongsam or wearing a minimalist black or grey mandarin collared suit jacket. Tang suits were designed to showcase and celebrate China’s rich tradition as well as its modernity, and choosing to wear a Tang suit is a great way to embed that spirit into your wedding day.

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