Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Traditional Chinese Dress - The Cheongsam or the Qipao

The Chinese traditional dress is what I consider to be one of the classics.
The modern day version of the dress is very sexy and feminine and can
be worn casually or formally depending on the length and the fabric used.
The mother above looks fabulous with her short and pink cotton cheongsam.
The terms of Qipao and Cheongsam mean the same thing in different dialects.

The original cheongsam was wide and loose, covering most of the woman's
body. The baggy nature of the clothing also served to conceal the figure of the
woman. With time, though, the qipao were tailored to become more form
fitting and revealing. The modern version, which is now recognized popularly
in China as the "standard" qipao, was first developed in Shanghai around
1900, after the Qing Dynasty fell. At that time, Chinese could freely wear
whatever they liked without the fear of penalty from the government (the
Qing government had strict control over their citizens' dress code down to the
way men wore their hair).

After World War I, prostitutes from overseas flocked to Shanghai,
wearing their exposing and body-hugging dresses. This brought
pressure to local prostitutes, whom were still wearing the original
baggy qipao. Thus, high-class brothels in Shanghai redesigned the
qipao to be body-hugging with side slits for their prostitutes. However,
only high-class prostitutes could wear these redesigned qipao at that
time. Slender and form-fitting with a high cut, it contrasted sharply
with the traditional qipao.

This girl looks very pretty and
demure in her modern Qipao.

A photo from the past of women hanging
out in short summer Chinese dresses.

The shortened collar represents a more
modern style of the Cheongsam.

Formal portraits were taken
in a Cheongsam as well.

Here's a vintage advertisement with a model in a short Qipao.

Many period Chinese films also make use of
the traditional garment. Maggie Cheung in
the well known film "In the Mood for Love."

The higher collar represents an earlier
time in the 20th century.

It is also a favorite of singers and performers.

And also the choice of many
Asian movie stars.

A modified version of the Cheongsam with a halter top.
It's a great example of the melding of Eastern and Western design.

Nicole Kidman looks fabulous in this
more traditional take on the dress.

And even popular dolls in Asia are garbed with it.

Here's Blythe in a Cheongsam.

Don't forget to get your submissions in for
the Material Girl's design contest sponsored
by Swank Lighting! The grand prize is a pair
of these gorgeous lamps above in any color!
This is one contest you really don't want to miss.
Either of the links above will give you information
about the contest. I will be serving as one of the guest
judges for Swank Lighting. The submission deadline is
this Saturday on November 1, 2008.

Good Luck!

All photos from Flickr, Swank Lighting
and history bits from Wikipedia.


M.Kate said...

Karen, the qipao and cheongsam is my all time favourite..wear it every chinese new Year without fail..though mine is just the top. I do have have loose a godzillion many kgs before i can squeeze into one. I saw the movie In the mood for love..and honestly, I dont think anyone wears it better than Maggie Cheung, she has this awesome body and classic look in that movie. Hope you are keeping well :D

porter hovey said...

in the mood for love is just one of the most amazing movies ever. everything about it is just perfect!!

Anonymous said...

Hey Karen,
Thanks for this great post! I love learning about different cultures. The dresses are beautiful!

maison21 said...

my mom, after living in hawaii, and traveling in asia during the early 1960's decided that the cheongsam was her thing, and wore them frequently. there are lots of family photos of her glamorous silk cheongsam and blond bouffant as she prepared for an evening out (and occasionally a pic holding me as a baby- i hope i didn't spit up on all that silk..)

Coco of Cococozy said...

Just found your blog and love it. Also love these dresses and this post...fantastic fashion history!!

viera said...

So elegant . True classic .
Love your post.

columnist said...

After we moved for a brief time to live in UK, (after Hong Kong for 20+ years), we went out one grey November day to watch "In the mood for Love", and I can't tell you how evocative it was for both of us. Even though we'd only lived there together since the 80s, I had lived there as a child, from the mid 60s, and the movie is about that period. I was SO homesick. We live in Asia again, and it's very unlikely we will ever live anywhere else.

Pascale said...

C'est très joli les robes chinoise, je trouve qu'elle sublimes le corps féminin.


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Chinese Moods said...

Traditional Chinese Dresses are the most popular dresses in China.

Chinese Moods

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