So here's Mulan, my next Disney heroine in my 'historically accurate Disney heroine' series. (The others can be seen here
). I decided to go in a different direction for this-- instead of re-imagining one of the movie costumes in a more historical context, I re-imagined the costume completely. My somewhat selfish reason is that I find the generic 'ancient-y' han-fu in the movie to be pretty boring, especially when the actual history of Chinese costume is fascinating, varied and incredibly rich.
This particular costume is called a 'large-sleeved gown,' and it is a famous style from the Tang dynasty period, which is arguably the first period in human history to feature actual honest-to-God low-cut gowns. The famous painting by Zhou Fang-- "Beauties with Flowery Hairpins"
, from the late 8th century AD-- features this style. (This style is also the basis of the amazing costumes in Curse of the Golden Flower
, which I watched for inspiration.) The story of Mulan is usually set during the Sui or Tang period-- there is a decent run-down of the variants of the legend here
-- so I felt that putting it in this period was not unsuitable (especially since the movie itself is so generic, and pretty much impossible to date). I was inspired by the color scheme in the final dress she wore in the movie-- but put more of an emphasis on the crimson and turquoise, since that color scheme would be more indicative of a mature, confident woman. She holds her father's sword, and the emperor's seal hangs around her wrist (one wouldn't want to ruin the lines of the gown, after all).
If you're interested in Chinese costume history, then I highly recommend Gao Chunming's seminal book, 5000 Years of Chinese Costume
, which I used for research. It's kind of expensive, but you can probably get it from the library.