What is a Qipao?

81.pngA poster of women wearing Qipao in the 1920s/30s.

The Cheongsam (known as Qipao in Mandarin, previously called the Ch’ipao in the West) is the dress that most westerners associate with China. It originated from a type of Manchurian female garment and has a rich history, but has undergone a lot of change over time. The Qipao dress is supposed to represent the interior elegance of the woman wearing it.

The main characteristics of Qipao are; the mandarin collar, fitted waist, Chinese “frog” (knotted) buttons, hemmed slits on two sides, and a tailored form fit. Usually, Qipaos are made from satin brocade, silk, or cotton. With their impressive embroideries, Qipaos can be regarded as exquisite works of art that embody a great deal of beauty, passion, resilience and love. On the other hand, the Qipao also represents an old art that is at risk of dying out. Nowadays, Qipaos display a mix of Chinese and Western clothing styles.

Over 300 years ago, Qipaos were custom made by tailors for ladies of noble birth or wealthy families as a garment symbolic of high status. They became the outfit of choice for important social gatherings, including Chinese traditional weddings, and even today, for some, to wear a Qipao is to act like an elegant lady of status. In some ways, the Qipao can be said to reflect a woman’s inner self, personality, style and vision. For the Chinese New Year, Chinese girls often wear a Qipao, because they consider the Qipao as a positive sign that the year ahead will be better than the last!

by Hannah hannah@interactchina.com

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