|Costumes from Wu Meiniang Chuanqi (The Legend of Wu Meiniang), via Dianyingwang Dingding.|
Apparently they really weren't making it up:
The most beautiful dress in China is called Semi-exposed Chest Dress, which is an imperial Costume. In the Tang Dynasty, only imperial women can wear this dress, like Yang Guifei who is one of top four beauties is particularly wearing this dress to please the emperor. The Semi-exposed Chest Dress is similar to the modern western dresses evening dress. Most of this dress has low collar or no collar. They can expose a part of the chest, which can show woman’s unique beauty. Semi-exposed Chest Dress is characterized by high waist, generally above the waist, which shows slender body of women. Tang dresses have many colors, like red, purple, yellow; especially the red dress is the most popular. (Legend China)
|Wu Zetian in a clearly inauthentic Qing-dynasty image (18th century) in the British Museum, via Wikipedia. Though as far as authenticity goes, she was 66 when she started reigning and kept the throne until she died at 81, so she cannot have looked much like the actress Fan Bingbing at the time.|
Great video at BBC, which is also my source for the image below.
|Fan Bingbing |