Chinese imperial court clothes made with plastic, scraps and recycled materials a hit in China

A handout photo. Woman uses plastic bags, leftover fabrics and household scraps to make elaborate Chinese Imperial court dresses.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

AsiaOne has launched EarthOne, a new section dedicated to environmental issues — because we love the planet and we believe science. Find articles like this there.


A collection of dresses inspired by those worn by ancient Chinese emperors and consorts made from plastic bags, discarded fabrics, and other household scraps have proved a hit on mainland Chinese social media.

The dressmaker, surnamed Lv, from Luoyang in central China's Henan province has spent the last five years making the unique period clothes during her spare time.

"I'd seen other people make clothes out of eco-friendly materials and thought they were beautiful, so I thought I'd give this a try," Lv told Wutong Video, a mainland Chinese news site.

Living in one of China's oldest cities which is considered a cradle of Chinese civilisation, the first thing that came to mind for Lv when choosing a style was ancient court dress.

"I tend to make ancient court dresses," Lv said, "but I don't follow the patterns on the old dresses; instead, I design them in a way that I like."

A handout photo. Lv lives and works in one of China’s oldest cities, Luoyang in central China’s Henan province, which has a long association with imperial China. 
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Lv's popularity skyrocketed after she created an account on Douyin, China's TikTok, where her videos have attracted wide attention.

So far, according to Lv, she has made dozens of such dresses, with the most recent a dress decorated with peony flowers, which are closely associated with imperial China and which Luoyang is famous for.

Lv said that she created the latest dress to compensate for the disappointment felt by many people across the country who were unable to enjoy the flowers in the city this year due to the epidemic which forced the city to cancel the annual Luoyang peony culture festival, it dates back to the Sui dynasty and has a 1,400-year history.

"People can see different colours of peony flowers on the dress in my video," Lv said.

A handout photo. Lv lives and works in one of China’s oldest cities, Luoyang in central China’s Henan province, which has a long association with imperial China. 
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Lv decorates her dresses with more than just flowers; peanut shells, drink cans, bottle caps, and even fish scales have been used on the clothes she has made.

"I occasionally shape fish scales into dragons or flowers and glue them onto the clothes," she explained.

Her enthusiasm for making clothes in this unorthodox manner has inspired her son and others to contribute creative decoration ideas.

"They will assist in the design of the clothes, and their imagination is even greater than mine," Lv said.

In one of Lv's videos, her son is seen attaching foam packing meshes in the shape of a dragon on to a dress.

ALSO READ: How fashion went from 'Made in China' to 'Designed in China'

Many viewers of her work praised her skill and encouraged her to keep creating.

"It's very creative and a good way to promote environmental protection," one commented.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.