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The Chinese Evening Dress

Article 3 | The Chinese Evening Dress ~ or Cheongsam(Qipao)

As a young Engineer in the British Navy, steaming into Hong Kong (Hong Kong means "fragrant harbour") on a misty warm morning in the early 70's, I was completely in awe of the sights and sounds which very quickly took over my senses.

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Additionally, I was immediately on 'Cheongsam' watch, the aftermath of watching the movie - 'The World of Suzie Wong' starring William Holden and Nancy Kwan, which had been showing in my hometown cinema prior to my unexpected secondment to HMS Fearless - a state-of-the-art (at least in the early seventies) landing-platform assault vessel.
Historically, the Cheongsam or Qipao, to give the dress its Chinese name, became fashionable in the early 1930s, and the wearing of a Cheongsam (Qipao) became the popular dress choice for women across the whole of China. Various styles were presented during this period - some were short, some were long, some had sleeves , some were sleeveless, with low, high or even no collars at all.
Starting from the 1940s, Cheongsams became closer-fitting and more practical and in the Summer months, women began to prefer sleeveless versions of the dresses. Qipaos of this period were seldom adorned with patterns. The Asian Qipao became standard female attire until the 1960s. Following Western fashion, the tailors raised the hem, even to above the knee, so that the "long" was long no longer, in fact it was short and became a type of 'mini-cheongsam' !
sam01Sadly in Western Society during the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the style was viewed as an oppressive garment, similar to the Victorian bodice, and the cheongsam became synonymous with the movie character Suzie Wong and the perceived sexual objectification of women. Today, with its variety of styles, fabrics and designs, the sensual Cheongsam dress shows its charm on display at many retail outlets, as more and more women in China and indeed Europe appreciate its outstanding elegance and beauty. For instance, when wives of China's diplomats attend important social gatherings, the Qipao is their first choice among dresses. Also a lot of Chinese brides choose a Qipao as their ceremonial wedding dress. In fact, quite a number of influential people have suggested that the Qipao/Cheongsam should become the national dress for women in China. This shows that the Cheongsam remains a vibrant part of Chinese culture. Wearing a Qipao nowadays has turned into something of a vogue, both at home and abroad. Due to its elegance and classical looks the Qipao becomes a source of inspiration for fashion designers. World-renowned brands like CD, Versace, and Ralph Lauren have all cited some Qipao elements in their designs.
Many foreign women are eager to get themselves a Qipao should they visit China. Chinese fashion Qipao is no longer a garment particular to Chinese women, but is adding to the vocabulary of beauty for women the world over.
We have a great selection of Cheongsams in our store, please click Oriental Dresses in the menu listing to browse this section.

author: alvin@thaistyle.co.uk