Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Crown Prince's Costumes in Female Prime Minister

After watching a bit of Wallace Chung's Tian Ya Ming Yue Dao (TYMYD) and noticed the hideous male costumes/hairdos, I got inspired to write about the stunning male costumes in Female Prime Minister. It demonstrates how costumes and hairdos, if done right, can absolutely transform an actor. I picked the Crown Prince Gao Zhan's costumes as the topic of our discussion because his wardrobe contains some of my favorite pieces. I think I'm on a "Chen Xiao" marathon or something because I've been writing quite a few posts about him lately. LOL. 

Unfortunately, I wish I can say the same about the female costumes in this drama. I don't find the women costumes (particularly the formal court robes with the circular badge design at the abdominal area) very striking to my my aesthetic taste. Xiao Guanyin and the Empress Dowager Lou are perhaps the two female characters with costumes I like. If I have to name a TV series with the best Han Dynasty-ish  costume design, Ruby Lin's Scheme of a Beauty deserves a very honorable mention. Both the hair and costumes for every female character were meticulously designed to perfection.

Dress during the Northern and Southern Dynasties was very similar to the Han Dynasty fashion. Men usually wore long full body garments with cross collar. Even though most of the ruling houses (including the Gao ruling house of Northern Qi) during this historic period originated from Mongolic/Turkic nomadic tribes north of China proper, many did try to "Sinicize" themselves to become more "Chinese" and soften their "barbaric" nomadic ties by adapting "Chinese" attire. Another small fashion detail I like about this drama series is the fact that all the men tied their hair up in a bun. Men in pre-Qing Dynasty era did not sport flowing long hair as a fashion statement.

For period costumes in general, I have a strong preference for more traditional cuts with elaborate details and neutral colors for men and maybe more flamboyant colors for women. The haphazard costumes in TYMYD are just works of creativity and not very historically substantive in terms of design.

FORMAL COURT ROBES
Formal court robes are characterized by very wide sleeves and more intricate embroidered details. These robes are often embellished with many powerful symbols to signify a person's rank within the imperial court system. Since Gao Zhan is the designated crowned prince, his formal court robes are embroidered with five-clawed dragons, which represented supreme imperial authority. Lesser noblemen only adorn robes decorated with four-clawed dragons. All of Gao Dan's formal court robes have the bixi, the long front cloth panel attached from the waist belt.

Blue Ceremonial Court Robe 
Gao Zhan looks absolutely princely in this blue court robe! I love the simplicity of the whole look. It's sophisticated and regal.

Formal Black Court Robe #1
I absolutely love the pattern borders of the cross-collar. It really makes a loud statement in this rather simple formal court robe. Despite its plain black ground, the jade belt nicely accents the outfit and the heavily embroidered bixi adds formality.

Formal Black Court Robe #2
Decorated with symbols of imperial authority. The dragons on the shoulders and the bixi give this garment its majestic character. Unlike the other formal robes where the embroidery tends to blend in with the base fabric, various shades of purplish silver thread are used to call out the finely embroidered dragon symbols on this robe.

Formal Dragon Court Robe in Gray
One of my favorite pieces in his formal court robe collection. I love the rich silver tone threaded embroidery against this gray canvas.

Red Wedding Robe
I'm surprised this wedding robe doesn't have a bixi. A string of  large ornaments is instead attached to the waist belt.

Ceremonial Red Court Robe of the Emperor
Gao Zhan's older brother wore the same ceremonial court robe during his reign.  Similar to Gao Zhan's other formal robes, this piece is heavily detailed with intricate designs on the sleeves. A bixi isn't included in this outift. I assumed the costume designer decided to replace the bixi with a string of large ornaments to distinguish it from the regular formal court robe and the ceremonial court robe.

Court Robe of the Emperor 
Can't say much about this attire since I don't have a full body shot of this outfit. 

INFORMAL ROBES
Informal robes are more muted in colors with simple details and are intended for everyday wear. They are probably designed for fast movement and comfort than class symbolism.

Blue Robe #1
Simple garmet with subtle embellishments. Despite its simplicity and subtlety, you can still tell whoever wears this robe isn't a commoner or farmer. The small details such as the faded embroidery work add texture and richness to the fabric.

Gray Robe
Simple in cut but also highly ornate in embroidery design. The white-threaded embroidery along the seam of collar somewhat resembled the tail of a dragon with the scales.

Simple Blue Robe #2 
A simple robe embellished by a black patterned collar and two round embroidered emblems on shoulder. The statement piece of this attire is probably the leather belt lined with five round metal ornaments.

Simple Blue Robe #3
The statement piece of this outfit is probably the jaded centerpiece on the chest. Even though the patchwork is not very evident in photo, you can still tell there are some ornate symbols on both sleeves.

Dark Gray Robe
Much emphasis is put on the sleeves. The black patchy pattern on the sleeves reminds me of how Chinese painters draw their clouds.


Spiraling Pattern Robe
This outfit definitely wins in my least favorite category. The spiraling pattern in gold against black fabric is too busy for my taste. Perhaps if worn with a dark colored cap, the simplicity of the cap will neutralize the spiraling pattern and the overall clutter feel of the ensemble.

Black Robe with Gold Threaded Design
This black robe is probably one of my favorite pieces out of the Gao Zhan's costume collection. I love the rich asymmetrical patchwork on the sleeves. Since there is already so much emphasis put on the sleeves, the belt in this attire is more muted but still adds another level of color and details against the dark black fabric.

Dusky Mauve Robe
I don't feel much about this costume. I don't like it nor do I hate it. It belongs in the "more ordinary" category. 

Purple Robe
A relatively simple piece with some attention drawn to the embroidered design at the abdominal area. 
Embellished Brown Robe
This piece is actually rather intricate in terms of embroidery artwork. The entire upper body of this garment is covered with subtle details.

White Polka Dot Blue Robe
I feel like this is a layering piece of a more intricate attire. 
Commoner Robe in Silver Lilac
Compared to the previously dusky mauve robe, I prefer the simple look of this outfit more. I love the dark band on the cross collar against the silver lilac ground.


Commoner Robe in Beige
The outer robe is sheer to establish the crisscrossed effect on the collar.  This beige robe is one of the few lighter color pieces in Gao Zhan's costume collection. I just love the clean and sleek look with a statement belt decorated with round pieces of jade. The fact that jade is used in this attire definitely shows that this outfit isn't your typical commoner outfit. LOL



Military Armor
Heavy use of texture on this armor. The belt buckles on the top shoulder plates look a bit too "modern".  Overall, the look is too busy for my personal taste.
Mourning Robes
Really can't tell if this attire is specifically designed for mourning or for sleep. Chinese period dramas tend to use white garment very often as PJs. LOL

PHEW!! Finally finished with my costume rant! There are still a few outfits that I didn't include in this post. Judging from what I've seen in the trailer and photos, I suspect Gao Zhan to have around 25 to 30 outfits total. I counted 22 outfits already. I noticed that Gao Zhan's costume collection is perhaps the most wide ranging out of all the characters in Female Prime Minister.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the read on the costumes. They play a very heavy role in defining the overall feel of a drama production. While bad costumes do not necessarily ruin a drama, but good costumes can do an amazing job to a character and intensify the history behind it. 

I would love to hear what you think about Gao Zhan's costumes. What piece is your favorite? What drama production do you think have the best costumes?

 Now let's end this long post with a smile! Doesn't his smile melt your heart?


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