Often mistaken for cosplayers, an increasing number of Chinese, including some in Hong Kong, are donning hanfu (“Han Chinese clothing”) for special occasions or as everyday dress. Wishing to wear their “Chineseness” on their sleeves, as it were, they argue that the Chinese should have a national dress of their own in the same way Japanese have the kimono, Koreans the hanbok . Clothing that many people today identify as Chinese – the qipao (also known as cheongsam), the changshan , and various jackets and pyjama-like ensembles with stand-up M-shaped collars – are dismissed by hanfu enthusiasts as modern versions of a foreign dress imposed on the Han Chinese by the Manchu rulers of the Qing dynasty (1644–1912). While they recognise that the Manchus in present-day China are Chinese (who dares suggest otherwise?), they don’t believe that the clothing of an ethnic minority group truly represents the nation’s rich sartorial history and culture. The Hanfu fashion revival: ancient Chinese dress finds a new following Ironically, it is this richness that poses a dilemma for hanfu aficionados: from which period of Chinese history should they select their would-be national dress? In the three-and-a-half millennia of its verifiable history, China has known dozens of dynasties and regimes, and almost every period enjoyed a distinctive style of dress. Despite the bewildering variety of fashions, one can, however, discern a trend in which the volume of sleeves, hem lengths and the number of layers were reduced over several millennia for a less cumbersome fit and more streamlined silhouette. Also, the one constant of Han Chinese clothing was the wrapping of the left flap of the main garment across the chest and securing it on the right side of the body to form a Y-shaped collar. Then, there’s the issue of foreign influence that must be addressed. In championing Han Chinese clothing, hanfu advocates purportedly aim to discard the non-Han elements foisted on to their attire by foreign rulers. However, there were several periods in history when parts, or the whole, of China were ruled by foreigners. Also, features of foreign dress were adopted by the Han Chinese themselves on many occasions. With non-Han influences such an inalienable part of Chinese clothing, what then is the point of rejecting the qipao and changshan ? If this quest for a modern national dress seems terribly contrived, it is. Yet, other successful examples of traditional clothing are similarly cloaked in artifice. Modern versions are often just that: contemporary adaptations of apparel from a particular time in the nation’s past. Like the installation of electricity and modern plumbing in heritage buildings, “traditional” clothing today features modern contrivances like zips, snap fasteners and modern sewing techniques. Some are not even historical, but contemporary creations based on patterns from the past. Formal national dresses for Thai women, for example, were conceived in the mid-20th century by Thailand’s Queen Sirikit, while the qipao in its present-day figure-hugging, trouserless form was an early 20th century innovation by dressmakers in Shanghai. Many also see hanfu as a pointless exercise in resurrecting a long-dead cultural relic. A problem with hanfu in its present iteration, apart from the misplaced “Han Chinese pride”, is the lack of standards. Those that I have come across look tacky in their cheapness and there is no agreement on what makes a garment hanfu . Is the Y-shaped collar essential? Are there specified hem lengths or sleeve widths? What about accessories? Unless there are standardisations and, especially in mainland China, some form of official or state promotion, hanfu will remain confined to a handful of hobbyists.