The cheongsam, also known as qipao, is one-piece dress worn by Manchuria, Mongolia and the Eight-Banner.
Long gowns included collarless, narrow cuff in the shape of a horse’s hoof, buttons down the left front, four slits and a fitting waist during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). People usually coiled up their cuff, and they would put it down to cover their back of hand when hunting or battling. The cuff could serve to prevent cold in winter. Long gowns featured 4 slits, one on the left, right, front and back, which reached the knees. It fitted the body. When people went out hunting, the long gown could hold solid food and utensils by fastening a waistband. Women’s long gowns were white and men’s were blue, gray or green.
Cheongsam began to spread in the Central Plains when the Manchu rulers moved their capital to Beijing. The Qing Dynasty not only unified China but also unified the nationwide costume. Women wore cheongsam while men wore a long gown and a mandarin jacket over the gown in those days. The female dress survived the political change, although the 1911 Revolution toppled the rule of the Qing (Manchu) Dynasty. With succeeding improvements, Cheongsam has become the traditional dress for Chinese women.
Manchu people, both men and female, wore loose-fitting and straight-bottomed broad-sleeved long gowns with a wide front until the 1930s. The lower hem of men’s cheongsam reached the ankles and had no decorative patterns, while that of women’s cheongsam reached the calves with embroidered flower patterns on it.
Cheongsam almost has become the uniform for women since the 1930s. Almost all women were cheongsam. In general, the cheongsam became a formal suit for occasions of social intercourse or diplomatic activities. Later, cheongsam has been spread from domestic to abroad. And it became the favorite of foreign females.
Affected by new fashion home and abroad, after the 1940s, men’s cheongsam was phased out. However, women’s cheongsam became narrow-sleeved and fitted to the waist. And it had a relatively loose hip part. Besides, its lower hem reached the ankles. Therefore, today, we can see various forms of cheongsams that emphasize color decoration and set off the beauty of the female shape.
Since cheongsam fits well the female Chinese figure, and has simple lines and looks elegant, more and more Han people like wearing it. What’s more, it is suitable for all kinds of occasions, such as weddings, birthdays and parties.
The cheongsam can either be long or short, unlined or interlined. And, it can either be made woolen or silk floss. It presents different styles depending on the materials.
- Cheongsams, made of silk with patterns of plain lattices or thin lines, demonstrate charm of femininity and staidness.
- Cheongsams, made of brocade, are eye-catching and magnificent and suitable for occasions of greeting guests and attending banquets.
Chinese cheongsams received warm welcome from foreign friends. And they like buying top-notch Chinese cheongsams made of black velour interlined with or carved with golden flowers. Cheongsam not only features strong national flavor but also embodies beauty of Chinese traditional costume. In a word, Cheongsam does not just represent Chinese female costume, but also becomes a symbol of the oriental traditional costume.
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