10 books like Chinese Clothing

By Hua Mei,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Chinese Clothing. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Naxi Dongba Pictograph Dictionary

By He Pinzheng,

Book cover of Naxi Dongba Pictograph Dictionary

While researching the Ming dynasty and its tea horse trade, I had the joy of traveling to Lijiang in China’s Yunnan province. Lijiang is home to the Naxi (or Nakhi) whose Mu clan rose in prominence during the Ming dynasty. The Naxi people are unique in that they employ the world’s only living pictographic writing system. 

This tiny dictionary is filled with pictographs and their meaning, both in English and in Mandarin. Pictographs are grouped by topics significant to the Naxi culture, such as behaviour, family life, housing, and plants. This book extends one’s view of China, a country which should not be perceived as purely populated by the Han ethnic majority. The common symbols employed in the Naxi language provide valuable insights into the Naxi value system.

Naxi Dongba Pictograph Dictionary

By He Pinzheng,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Naxi Dongba Pictograph Dictionary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Eunuchs in the Ming Dynasty

By Shih-Shan Henry Tsai,

Book cover of Eunuchs in the Ming Dynasty

My favorite Ming dynasty source. It is rich with details on the eunuch institution during the Ming dynasty including its supply chain— the parts of society and of the world where eunuchs were historically drawn. Described here, are the various agencies within the Beijing Forbidden City where Ming dynasty eunuchs worked: Carpentry, Palace Servants, Palace Foods, Royal Clothing, the Nursing Home, and others, including a Toilet Paper agency. Readers not only gain insights on the imperial palace’s operations, but also on the eunuch ranking system, the emperors’ policies concerning eunuchs, and the rise of powerful eunuchs in the Ming secret police (Eastern Depot) and in Ming diplomacy. The latter came to its apogee with Admiral Zheng He, himself a eunuch, leading the Ming fleet during seven world voyages.

Eunuchs in the Ming Dynasty

By Shih-Shan Henry Tsai,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Eunuchs in the Ming Dynasty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This study of Chinese eunuchs illuminates the entire history of the Ming Dynasty, 1368-1644, and provides broad information on various aspects of pre-modern China.


1421

By Gavin Menzies,

Book cover of 1421: The Year China Discovered America

Long subject to debate due to its assertion that China discovered America, this book remains an astounding Ming dynasty source that should not be overlooked based on a single controversial claim. It has a decidedly maritime, diplomatic, and economic focus, offering a comprehensive – often technical – account of the 1421 Ming fleet’s expedition with attention to historical figures like Admiral Zheng He. It vividly paints Ming dynasty China as an economic might that traded extensively for various world products and received tributes and envoys from places as far as Malindi in southeast Africa. Published in 2002, the book has a certain prophetic quality: it highlights early Ming China’s trade dominance on the world stage as though Menzies sensed that history could repeat itself. Today, China is once again seen as an economic superpower.

1421

By Gavin Menzies,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 1421 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On March 8, 1421, the largest fleet the world had ever seen set sail from China to "proceed all the way to the ends of the earth to collect tribute from the barbarians beyond the seas." When the fleet returned home in October 1423, the emperor had fallen, leaving China in political and economic chaos. The great ships were left to rot at their moorings and the records of their journeys were destroyed. Lost in the long, self-imposed isolation that followed was the knowledge that Chinese ships had reached America seventy years before Columbus and had circumnavigated the globe a…


When China Ruled the Seas

By Louise Levathes,

Book cover of When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405-1433

Another much-loved book about the Ming dynasty’s naval fleet but this time, all seven maritime expeditions led by Admiral Zheng He are dutifully described. It outlines the evolution in ancient Chinese ship construction which saw the development of the formidable Ming ‘treasure fleet’. The reader can explore the Chinese mariners’ lives and occupations at sea, their navigation techniques, Ming China’s world trade and its diplomatic relationships, and the Ming fleet’s fascinating destinations, including Champa (now South Vietnam), Sumatra, Kuli (Kozhikode in India), Mogadishu, Malindi, and Hormuz. Cultural and socio-political details relating to the period are seamlessly weaved into this account which closely follows the life and works of Admiral Zheng He.

When China Ruled the Seas

By Louise Levathes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When China Ruled the Seas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A hundred years before Columbus and his fellow Europeans began making their way to the New World, fleets of giant Chinese junks commanded by the eunuch admiral Zheng He and filled with the empire's finest porcelains, lacquerware, and silk ventured to the edge of the world's `four corners.' It was a time of exploration and conquest, but it ended in a retrenchment so complete that less than a century later, it was a crime to go to sea in a multimasted ship. In When
China Ruled the Seas, Louise Levathes takes a fascinating and unprecedented look at this dynamic period…


Make Thrift Mend

By Katrina Rodabaugh,

Book cover of Make Thrift Mend: Stitch, Patch, Darn, Plant-Dye & Love Your Wardrobe

The best book on mending, maintaining, and repairing clothes, ever. Beautifully written, inspirational, and easy to use, this is the definitive practical guide to all techniques related to clothing longevity.

I am nowhere near as good at mending as the author of this book, but I have found her techniques to be both practical and fairly simple, and the beautiful images make trying compelling.

Make Thrift Mend

By Katrina Rodabaugh,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Make Thrift Mend as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Slow fashion expert Katrina Rodabaugh, bestselling author of Mending Matters, teaches readers how to mend, patch, dye, and alter clothing for an environmentally conscious, reimagined wardrobe

Slow fashion influencer Katrina Rodabaugh follows her bestselling book, Mending Matters, with a comprehensive guide to building (and keeping) a wardrobe that matters. Whether you want to repair your go-to jeans, refresh a favorite garment, thrift-shop like a pro, alter or dye clothing you already have-this book has all the know-how you'll need. Woven throughout are stories, essays, and a slow fashion call-to-action, encouraging readers to get involved or deepen their commitment to changing…


The Business of Beauty

By Jessica P. Clark,

Book cover of The Business of Beauty: Gender and the Body in Modern London

Am starting with a tiny cheat as this book isn’t just about women – although it is about the beauty industry which is usually associated with women. What this book is -however – is an exploration about the history of beauty, consumption and gender in Victorian and Edwardian London. It is packed with stories of women beauty salon owners like Sarah “Madame” Rachel Leverson, Helen Rubinstein and Anna Ruppert. I’ve been working on a book that features Anna Rupert and Clark’s book has been an invaluable resource and a great in depth study on the subject.

The Business of Beauty

By Jessica P. Clark,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Business of Beauty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Business of Beauty is a unique exploration of the history of beauty, consumption, and business in Victorian and Edwardian London. Illuminating national and cultural contingencies specific to London as a global metropolis, it makes an important intervention by challenging the view of those who-like their historical contemporaries-perceive the 19th and early 20th centuries as devoid of beauty praxis, let alone a commercial beauty culture.

Contrary to this perception, The Business of Beauty reveals that Victorian and Edwardian women and men developed a number of tacit strategies to transform their looks including the purchase of new goods and services from…


Worn

By Sofi Thanhauser,

Book cover of Worn: A People's History of Clothing

This is a brilliantly researched book which allowed me to accompany Sofi Thanhauser as she travelled across continents to unearth the origin and the fate of fabric production.  It made me realise the terrible damage done to our environment and to communities through colonialisation, exploitation, industrialisation, and our throw-away economy. Tracking how craft is being replaced with slave labour, how traditions are being eroded, and local economies destroyed in the pursuit of cheaper and greater textile production, Worn is not a comfortable read, but it is, for me, a reminder of the human cost involved in most of what I wear. 

Worn

By Sofi Thanhauser,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Worn as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A sweeping and captivatingly told history of clothing and the stuff it is made of—an unparalleled deep-dive into how everyday garments have transformed our lives, our societies, and our planet.

“We learn that, if we were a bit more curious about our clothes, they would offer us rich, interesting and often surprising insights into human history...a deep and sustained inquiry into the origins of what we wear, and what we have worn for the past 500 years."
—The Washington Post

In this panoramic social history, Sofi Thanhauser brilliantly tells five stories—Linen, Cotton, Silk, Synthetics, Wool—about the clothes we wear and…


Fashion Victims

By Alison Matthews David,

Book cover of Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present

From poisonous gowns to flammable petticoats, Fashion Victims shares the dark side of fashion history. What was the human cost to those beautiful gowns, both in terms of the wearers and the makers? This book is a little grimmer than my previous recommendations but no less interesting. A fascinating read.

Fashion Victims

By Alison Matthews David,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fashion Victims as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From insidious murder weapons to blaze-igniting crinolines, clothing has been the cause of death, disease and madness throughout history, by accident and design. Clothing is designed to protect, shield and comfort us, yet lurking amongst seemingly innocuous garments we find hats laced with mercury, frocks laden with arsenic and literally 'drop-dead gorgeous' gowns.

Fabulously gory and gruesome, Fashion Victims takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the lethal history of women's, men's and children's dress, in myth and reality. Drawing upon surviving fashion objects and numerous visual and textual sources, encompassing louse-ridden military uniforms, accounts of the fiery deaths…


The Ten

By Lauren Cochrane,

Book cover of The Ten: The Stories Behind the Fashion Chassis

What connects the most important fashion styles over the last 80 years? The answer: the stories of those who made these clothing items fashion and trends, often globally. Lauren Cochrane illustrates lavishly this with a wealth of exactly these stories and plenty of pictures. These 10 classic fashion items are part of the universal language of style we all somehow know but not too much about them: The White T-shirt, Miniskirt, Hoodie, Jeans, Ballet flat, Breton top, Biker jacket, Little black dress, Stiletto, Trench.

Familiar, commonplace, ubiquitous - each piece has become an emblem of a certain style, carrying its own connotations and historical significance. They aren't just clothes - our social history is contained within these perfect 10 pieces. They're vessels that hold the history of style, politics, and identity: while trends may come and go, these are here to stay.

The Ten puts fashion in context. Showing how…

The Ten

By Lauren Cochrane,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Ten as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Amazing - what perfect timing for fashion's new wave'
Barbara Hulanicki, Founder of BIBA

These 10 classic fashion items are part of the universal language of style: the White T-shirt, Miniskirt, Hoodie, Jeans, Ballet flat, Breton top, Biker jacket, Little black dress, Stiletto, Trench.

While trends may come and go, they remain symbols of perennial cool, part of a capsule collection of chic emblems that represent who we are, who we want to be and how we want to be seen.

The Ten tells the story of each item's creation, its journey to popularity, and why it matters today. These…


Rich Apparel

By Maria Hayward,

Book cover of Rich Apparel: Clothing and the Law in Henry VIII's England

Maria Hayward is my go-to author for all things clothing and fashion in Tudor England. In this book, she focuses on dress during Henry VIII’s reign, and the sumptuary legislation that regulated what people could wear. However, this is more than just a study of legislation. Hayward also uses wills, portraits, inventories and letters to describe and analyse the actual clothes owned by people from across the social spectrum. Of particular use to newcomers to the history of fashion is the information she provides about the different types of fabric and accessories, and her glossary.

Rich Apparel

By Maria Hayward,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rich Apparel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

English dress in the second half of the sixteenth century has been studied in depth, yet remarkably little has been written on the earlier years, or indeed on male clothing for the whole century. The few studies that do cover these neglected areas have tended to be quite general, focusing upon garments rather than the wearers. As such this present volume fills an important gap by providing a detailed analysis of not only what people wore in Henry's reign, but why. The book describes and analyses dress in England through a variety of documents, including warrants and accounts from Henry's…


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Interested in clothing, China, and the Ming dynasty?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about clothing, China, and the Ming dynasty.

Clothing Explore 27 books about clothing
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The Ming Dynasty Explore 11 books about the Ming dynasty