The History of Cheongsam Dresses and What Makes it Iconic

Floral motifs, a high slit and buttons lined from the Mandarin collar down one side of the dress. Those are a few elements many of us attribute to the traditional qipao, also known as the Cheongsam.

Traditional Chinese clothes or Cheongsams are often used when Chinese New Year or Chinese New Year. A long, tight red dress with hemispheres to half of this iconic thigh is also known as Qipao. The Cheongsam in Singapore was a traditional Chinese costume that was created in 1920 in Shanghai. This shirt is a symbol of social learning space that comes from upper-class women.

The traditional and iconic dress

At that time, Chinese women were enjoying a fresh breeze from gender equality, where they began to be exposed to receive an education. Slowly, this growth began to touch the world of fashion. Sophisticated Chinese women started to have the freedom to choose their fashion tastes.

Cheongsam or Qipao is a dress that forms the body that feels ideal to be a symbol of dressing a modern woman. Cheongsam clothes are now often used by women during Chinese New Year celebrations. No wonder, if now the meaning for the younger generation has been degraded because it is better known as Imlek clothes.

Following the growth of the times, Cheongsam clothes also went through many changes and designs even though they retained their original format and character. The influential red colour of the Cheongsam also adds to the aura of a woman wearing it. The red colour in the Chinese tradition describes happiness. One of the safest designs is the unique collar and one of the characteristics of the Cheongsam or Qipao.

The history

Most accounts trace the modern Qipao back a century ago to 1920s Shanghai. It was a period that followed a revolt in the mid-1910s against traditional patriarchal values, which called for an egalitarian society, including the emancipation and education of women.

Teachers and students began abandoning their ornate robes for an early form of the Qipao, featuring a looser cut and long, wide sleeves. Even celebrities and socialites like the former First Lady of China Madame Wellington Koo and Chinese actress and singer Zhou Xuan adopted the dress.

Before long, it became common attire for urban women in other metropolitan cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The Qipao reached its prime between the 1930s to 1940s, during which it had a more form-fitting silhouette and side slits than ran higher up to the thigh. Women had also begun experimenting with a variety of fabrics, trimmings, collars and sleeves.

After China’s civil war in 1949, the centre of qipao fashion migrated south to Hong Kong. Thanks to the boom of the city’s industrial economy, what formerly could only be afforded the bourgeois class was now accessible to everyone via self-taught tailoring and cheaper fabrics.

Communism then curbed the garment from being worn as everyday wear for a few decades until the 1980s, when it was officially adopted as the formal attire of female diplomatic agents by the People’s Republic of China. Outside China, including countries like Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia, the qipao started gaining popularity as a cultural fashion statement. So, what makes the Cheongsam or Qipao that makes it enduring and still used today?

Use on Chinese New Year and other big events

Cheongsam has never been absent in each annual event like Chinese New Year or important day involving a large family gathering. Qipao is also used for wedding dresses in China, of course, with so many variations of designs that are growing. Cheongsam dresses are never scarce in online dress shops in Singapore.

Later, the Cheongsam was used by mothers of officials at state meetings. Thus, it is recommended that Cheongsam be a national dress. Some of its references would be on Chinese movies where many of its telling about gambling, most of the iconic roles is Ko Chun alias God of Gambler played by Chow Yun Fat.

Changing world fashion growth

The market today is not short of options for those looking to buy a qipao or two for the new year, varying from designs that stay true to the classic silhouette and fabrics to looser, modern reinterpretations.

The clothes from the ancient Nuzhen tribe mix in Chinese culture. Even its existence is now among the parts of world fashion growth. Many fashion-dwelling locations in Europe that peek at original Cheongsam designs are applied to their fashion sense. That’s why Qipao doesn’t find it with American touch or Qipao with a European touch.

Final word

What’s most interesting to learn about the Cheongsam is the amount of detail that goes into designing the garment. The buttons that are found at the base of the Mandarin collar are known as the panko and consist of three main types: Straight, simple floral and elaborate. The first being the most commonly found and the latter two as decorative ornaments.

Another thing to look out for in a Cheongsam is the prints. The Chinese phoenix also known as the Fenghuang represents the union of a male and female. It is often found in wedding Cheongsams. Two cranes are a popular sight and symbolise double happiness. Finally, the dragon serves as a metaphor for power, strength and good luck.

You can never go wrong with the Qipao for all the occasions. It’s a very elegant cut, and it holds your posture with the high collar because everyone has to stand straight and sit straight. To wear a Cheongsam, it’s not about the shape or size of the woman. It’s about how you carry it well, with confidence, that sends a strong message. You can wear it for any event, day or night. If you don’t know what to wear for a function, just grab a Cheongsam and go.

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