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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Cheongsam Qipao



Cheongsam Qipao

A qipao, or Mandarin gown, is a one-piece fitted dress traditionally worn by upper class and wealthy Chinese women. Also referred to as a cheongsam in Southern China, the qipao gives the appearance of a long, flowing shirt dress. Having evolved in design over the centuries, it was once a simple dress that is now a highly stylized ornamental gown worn for dress occasions or as a costume. Originally, the dress was a loose fitting garment, and was intended for the purpose of concealing the wearer's figure.

First worn by nobility, the qipao in its original form had a high, close fitting collar, so that only the head and face of the wearer were visible; the sleeves and length were long as well, so that only the tips of the fingers and toes could be seen. These old style dresses were made of silk and were adorned simply at the collar, sleeves, and the hem with lace or trim.

The modern qipao is quite different from the original, in that it is now a fitted and figure-flattering garment. It has a defined mandarin collar, usually ranging in height from 2 to 3 inches (5.08 to 7.62 cm). The edges of the collar are slightly rounded, and meet at the front of the neck with a slight "V" opening. The higher collar is tight fitting and designed to enhance the neck of the woman wearing it, making her neck appear more slender and long.

While effecting a look of modesty, the nature of the item of today not only enhances the figure but suggestively shows it off. The sleeves of the modern garment range in length, with some having a short, fitted cap-type sleeve, and others reaching all the way to the wrist. The dress often will have high side slits, intended to give a brief but discreet glimpse of a woman's legs as she walks.

Just as in the past, the qipao is never intended to be accessorized; as such, a belt or scarf should not be worn with it. It is meant to be an elegant dress, accessorized in an understated fashion. Most often, the only accessories worn with it are earrings or a bracelet. Today, the Qipao is sometimes worn over a fitted pair of silk or satin pants. While the Qipao has evolved over the centuries in its design, its distinct element of simple elegance, however, has never changed.

Cheongsam Qipaos come in many different colors and patterns. They can be formal or a perfect choice for a colorful party.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Qipao: History Of Traditional Chinese Dress

The cheongsam, or Qipao in Chinese, is evolved from a kind of ancient clothing of Manchu ethnic minority. In ancient times, it generally referred to long gowns worn by the people of Manchuria, Mongolia and the Eight-Banner.

In the early years of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), long gowns featured collarless, narrow cuff in the shape of a horse's hoof, buttons down the left front, four slits and a fitting waist. Wearers usually coiled up their cuff, and put it down when hunting or battling to cover the back of hand. In winter, the cuff could serve to prevent cold. The gown had four slits, with one on the left, right, front and back, which reached the knees. It was fitted to the body and rather warm. Fastened with a waistband, the long gown could hold solid food and utensils when people went out hunting. Men's long gowns were mostly blue, gray or green; and women's, white.

Another feature of Manchu cheongsam was that people generally wore it plus a waistcoat that was either with buttons down the front, a twisted front, or a front in the shape of lute, etc.

When the early Manchu rulers came to China proper, they moved their capital to Beijing and cheongsam began to spread in the Central Plains. The Qing Dynasty unified China, and unified the nationwide costume as well. At that time, men wore a long gown and a mandarin jacket over the gown, while women wore cheongsam. Although the 1911 Revolution toppled the rule of the Qing (Manchu) Dynasty, the female dress survived the political change and, with succeeding improvements, has become the traditional dress for Chinese women.

Till the 1930s, Manchu people, no matter male or female, all wore loose-fitting and straight-bottomed broad-sleeved long gowns with a wide front. The lower hem of women's cheongsam reached the calves with embroidered flower patterns on it, while that of men's cheongsam reached the ankles and had no decorative patterns.

From the 1930s, cheongsam almost became the uniform for women. Folk women, students, workers and highest-tone women all dressed themselves in cheongsam, which even became a formal suit for occasions of social intercourses or diplomatic activities. Later, cheongsam even spread to foreign countries and became the favorite of foreign females.

After the 1940s, influenced by new fashion home and abroad, Manchu men's cheongsam was phased out, while women's cheongsam became narrow-sleeved and fitted to the waist and had a relatively loose hip part, and its lower hem reached the ankles. Then there emerge various forms of cheongsams we see today that emphasize color decoration and set off the beauty of the female shape.

Why do Han people like to wear the cheongsam? The main reason is that it fits well the female Chinese figure, has simple lines and looks elegant. What's more, it is suitable for wearing in all seasons by old and young.

The cheongsam can either be long or short, unlined or interlined, woolen or made of silk floss. Besides, with different materials, the cheongsam presents different styles. Cheongsams made of silk with patterns of flowerlet, plain lattices or thin lines demonstrate charm of femininity and staidness; those made of brocade are eye-catching and magnificent and suitable for occasions of greeting guests and attending banquets.

When Chinese cheongsams were exhibited for sales in countries like Japan and France, they received warm welcome from local women, who did not hesitate to buy Chinese cheongsams especially those top-notch ones made of black velour interlined with or carved with golden flowers. Cheongsam features strong national flavor and embodies beauty of Chinese traditional costume. It not only represents Chinese female costume but also becomes a symbol of the oriental traditional costume.