logo

It is commonly known that some wealthy people collect art, but did you know Mandarin dresses could be collectors’ items, too? Since the making of Mandarin dresses is quite an art, some people in today’s China do collect exquisite Mandarin dresses once in the possession of past celebrities. One of the Mandarin dress collectors is Ms. Song Luxia (Song is her family name according to the surname-first Chinese tradition), a Chinese historian living in Shanghai.

Ms. Song Luxia, a Chinese historian living in Shanghai

Ms. Song Luxia, a Chinese historian living in Shanghai

In Ms. Song’s collection, there are three Mandarin dresses that once belonged to Madame Chiang Kai-Shek (1898-2003), China’s most memorable first lady.

Madame Chiang Kai-Shek (1898-2003), China's most memorable first lady

Madame Chiang Kai-Shek (1898-2003), China’s most memorable first lady

One of Madame Chiang’s three dresses in the collection is shown above. With a subtle floral pattern, it’s understated and elegant.

Here is a Mandarin dress also with a colorful floral pattern on a deep blue background, but the impressionistic floral print looks more youthful.

Floral Mandarin Dress made with watered gauze silk

Floral Mandarin Dress made with watered gauze silk

Madame Chiang had an almost equally famous brother, T.V. Soong(1894-1971), who was once China’s prime minister. His wife Laura (1907-1988) always accompanied him on international trips as well as at formal dinner banquets. She dressed just as impeccably as her sister-in-law Madame Chiang, but appeared to prefer fancier styles.

Mrs. Laura Soong in a Mandarin dress

Mrs. Laura Soong in a Mandarin dress

A beaded blush silk dress of Mrs. Laura Soong’s is now in Ms. Song’s collection.

A beaded blush silk dress of Mrs. Laura Soong's

A beaded blush silk dress of Mrs. Laura Soong’s

Blush is a very flattering shade of pink, which can bring a rosy tone to your cheeks. Here is a blush silk Mandarin dress of our times.

Bogonia Embroidered Mandarin Dress In Champagne Color

Bogonia Embroidered Mandarin Dress In Champagne Color

Though without beading, this dress comes with some white embroidery that looks somewhat similar to tiny pearl beads. There is a subtly bridal feel about the dress, making it ideal for engagement photo shooting. For those already married, it would work perfectly at a wedding anniversary celebration.

Speaking of weddings, let’s look at the most impressive wedding photo of 1929.

Juliana Young Koo's wedding photo

Juliana Young Koo’s wedding photo

The glamorous bride in the photo, Juliana Young Koo, is still alive! Most amazingly, she was dancing at her 109th birthday party last fall!

Juliana Young Koo dancing at her 109th birthday party

Juliana Young Koo dancing at her 109th birthday party

Mrs. Koo was one of the first female graduates from Shanghai’s Fudan University. When she was young, a fortune teller predicted that she would have an incredibly extraordinary life. Those words came true. She went through lots of unexpected twists and turns most women wouldn’t even dare dream of, starting with leaving China as a diplomat’s wife.

She was married twice. During World War II, the Japanese killed her first husband, forcing her to raise three daughters on her own. Then she brought them to New York and took a job with the United Nations. Later in New York, she fell in love with her first husband’s former boss Wellington Koo(1888-1985), one of the most distinguished Chinese diplomats of the 20th century. They married when she was 54 and he was 71. It was his fourth marriage.

One of Mrs. Koo’s Mandarin dresses is in Ms. Song’s collection.

One of Mrs. Koo's Mandarin dresses

One of Mrs. Koo’s Mandarin dresses

With a lush green background and hot pink floral pattern, this dress really can represent Mrs. Koo’s evergreen life! If you like the vibrant color combination of pink and green, here is a similar design.

Green floral beaded silk Mandarin dress

Green floral beaded silk Mandarin dress

Speaking of bright colors, teal is a lovely one. It’s a shade between blue and green, and it goes well with both of those colors.

Green floral Mandarin Dress

Green floral Mandarin Dress

This multicolored dress somewhat resembles a teal-and-blue dress in Ms. Song’s collection.

A green floral Mandarin dress from Ms. Song's collection

A green floral Mandarin dress from Ms. Song’s collection

The watercolor patterned dress once belonged to Ms. Chao Chi-hsia(1912-2000), widely known as the fourth Miss Zhao. The love of her life, Chang Hsueh-Liang(1901-2001), was put under house arrest after rebelling against Chiang Kai-Shek in 1936. She stayed with him and gave up her own freedom for him when his wife had to go to America for medical treatments. Eventually, Chang divorced his wife and married her.

Ms. Zhao Yidi in a Mandarin dress, 1920's

Ms. Zhao Yidi in a Mandarin dress

While these legendary ladies are no longer in their prime, their Mandarin dresses keep records of the past glory. Wouldn’t you want some magnificent Mandarin dresses to immortalize your best years, too?

The second half of year 2015 has begun. If one of your new year’s resolutions is to lose a few pounds. A curve-hugging Mandarin dress can help you more with the process, which will force you to tuck in your tummy and eat less. In the meantime, a Mandarin dress in the right cut won’t be too tight but will create the illusion of a better figure.

Carina Lau in Modernized Mandarin Dress

Carina Lau in Modernized Mandarin Dress

You don’t have to be Chinese to wear a Mandarin dress. Many Mandarin dresses are totally modernized. They can serve as office attire or party dresses for ladies of all races. If you are thinking about Mandarin dresses, the only concern should be how to choose a high quality one, because a low quality one won’t achieve the figure flattering effect.

Here are some guidelines on how to pick your ideal Mandarin dress:

1. A High Collar

A stand-up collar is a distinctive feature of classic Mandarin dresses. Although many modernized Mandarin dresses are collarless, it’s wiser to choose one with the traditional collar.

Floral Cheongsam Butterfly Print Red Long Length Delicate Trims

Floral Cheongsam Butterfly Print Red Long Length Delicate Trims

See the high collar in the photo above? Such a shapely high collar can make your neck look longer and thinner. That will definitely lead people to consider you quite a few pounds lighter than you really are.

2. A Waist Accentuating Design

Your Mandarin dress should be an inch to two inches larger than your body measurements to give you room to breathe while the cut of its upper part follows the natural shape of your torso. In case your natural waistline is not apparent, the part of the dress around the ribs should be cut looser and then tapers in around the waist to create a nip in the waist for you.

If a waist accentuating Mandarin dress comes with an embroidered pattern at one side or both sides of the waist, it will be even more slimming, because the pattern will draw attention inward and make the waist look narrower. Below is a great example.

Ombre Modern Cheongsam With Embroidered Peony

Ombre Modern Cheongsam With Embroidered Peony

3. Seamless Trimming

Satin trims can glamorize any simple Mandarin dress, but only when the stitches on them don’t show. That’s why high-end Mandarin dresses are all trimmed by hand. Only hand trimming can disguise all the stitches. If the trimming is done by machine, you will definitely see the stitches on the inner side. That’s not a big problem, but if you see your Mandarin dress as a piece of art, then you should look at the inner side in order to find seamless hand trimming.

Floral Silk Qipao With Contrast Trims & Handmade Chinese Frog Buttons

Floral Silk Qipao With Contrast Trims & Handmade Chinese Frog Buttons

Skillful hand trimming can ensure the smoothness of the trims and give you a perky look, which will help you appear a little skinnier, too!

4. Handmade Frog Buttons

While many modernized Mandarin dresses go without frog buttons, the traditional buttons are nice to have, because they add an artistic appeal to the dress.

Abstract Roses On White Mandarin Dress

Abstract Roses On White Mandarin Dress

Just because frog buttons are attention grabbing, they should not show stitches or broken thread. A poorly made frog button will make a Mandarin dress look cheap. So, if you like frog buttons on your Mandarin dress, take a close look to make sure they appear seamless and firmly fixated.

Handmade frog buttons look much more vivid and exquisite than those machine made. If you are ordering a Mandarin dress for an important occasion, you won’t regret paying a little more for one with handmade frog buttons. Most Mandarin dresses on elegente.com come with handmade frog buttons.

Peony Print Cheongsam Silk W/ Delicate 3 Layer Binding

Peony Print Cheongsam Silk W/ Delicate 3 Layer Binding

5. Smooth Pattern Combination

Many dresses are made of fabrics with printed flowers or plaid, so combining printed panels requires attention. Let’s keep in mind that a dress usually consists of a front panel, a back panel, and two side panels. If all these panels are printed, they should be combined in a way that the print looks consistent. Cheap printed dresses often display broken printed patterns.

This is an issue to consider not only when you are shopping for a Mandarin dress, but when you are looking at any type of dresses.

You can rest assured that printed panels are always carefully combined in Elegente dresses. Check out a few of them below and then you will be convinced!

Fashion Silk Cheongsam Floral Printing Red Chinese Ink

Fashion Silk Cheongsam Floral Printing Red Chinese Ink

Blue Silk Cheongsam Dress Handmade Floral Printing

Blue Silk Cheongsam Dress Handmade Floral Printing

Romantic Floral A-Line Mandarin Dress

Romantic Floral A-Line Mandarin Dress

Purple Floral Silk Velvet Cheongsam

Purple Floral Silk Velvet Cheongsam

Now you have know how to select a high quality Mandarin dress. Happy shopping!

Do you know the Chinese actress in the photos below? If you don’t, can you guess how old she is? Can you believe she turned 40 this year?

Zhou Xun in Mandarin Dress

Zhou Xun in Mandarin Dress

In case you don’t already know, her name is Zhou Xun (Zhou is her family name, as the Chinese name order puts the surname first). The photos came from the production of her latest TV drama, a period piece set in the 1930s, in which her character first appears as a 19-year-old and then grows older.

Zhou Xun in a red cheongsam dress

Zhou Xun in a red cheongsam dress

Chinese media are all saying Ms. Zhou looked convincing when she played that 19-year-old. Her baby face certainly should take credit for that. Actually, if you look closely, you’ll see some fine lines around her eyes, and her cheeks are slightly sunken, but her childlike facial features make these initial signs of aging less noticeable. Besides, since the TV drama character is a village girl constantly exposed to the sun, it is conceivable for her to show some slight pre-mature aging signs at age 19. That’s another reason why Ms. Zhou got to pull it off — by a city girl’s standards, she looks mid to late 20s, not 19, but still a lot younger than her age. For everyone of you over 35, wouldn’t it be nice to look so much younger, too?

You may not have Ms. Zhou’s baby face, but by wisely choosing what you wear, you can look younger, too. As a matter of fact, you can learn from Ms. Zhou’s costumes about how to dress young by taking the following steps:

Go for the Mandarin Collar

Ms. Zhou’s costumes all come with a Mandarin collar for the historical period the TV drama is set in, but Mandarin dresses are still in vogue right now. The Mandarin collar can cover all the aging signs on the neck, which usually come out a lot earlier than those on the face — even teenagers may have horizontal lines on the neck due to lowering the head to look at the computer screen too much!

Zhou Xun in a black suit revealing her neck

Zhou Xun in a black suit revealing her neck

After age 30, those horizontal lines will become more apparent. Very skinny women over 30 or 35 may also get bulging veins on the neck. Just compare Ms. Zhou in a modern suit in the photo with her costume pictures above, and then you will agree that neck coverage really makes her look younger. It will do the same for you, too!

Choose Flattering Orange Tones

Somehow colors with a little orange tone can give you a peachy look. These colors include apricot, peach, coral, and brick red.

Zhou Xun in an orange cheongsam top

Zhou Xun in an orange cheongsam top

Among the three Mandarin dresses shown below, the coral one will definitely flatter your skin tone.

Classic Chinese Cheongsam Dress Slim With Chinese Buttons - China Doll

Classic Chinese Cheongsam Dress Slim With Chinese Buttons – China Doll

Silk Jacquard Classic Oriental Coats Orange

Silk Jacquard Mandarin Coat in Orange

Use the Rejuvenating Power of Little White Flowers

Classic blue and white Mandarin dress

Classic blue and white Mandarin dress

Little white flowers on a dark background compose a girlie floral print, which will make you look younger, but given its subtlety, it won’t seem like trying too hard, exactly what you need if you want to take 10 to 12 years off your age.

Blue & Silver Cheongsam mini length

Blue & Silver Cheongsam mini length

Blue and White Cheongsam Dress With Knotted Buttons

Blue and White Cheongsam Dress With Knotted Buttons

Pick Lovely Light Blue

No matter it’s icy blue, sky blue, or slate blue, light blue tones can make your skin look more moist, perhaps because they resemble the color of streams and lakes.

Zhou Xun in a light blue cheongsam dress

Zhou Xun in a light blue cheongsam dress

Here are some great choices of light blue dresses.

Impressionistic White Flowers On Icy Blue Silk Cheongsam -

Impressionistic White Flowers On Icy Blue Silk Cheongsam – “Snow Saussurea“

Blue Silk Cheongsam Dress Handmade Floral Printing - Singing Bird

Blue Silk Cheongsam Dress Handmade Floral Printing – Singing Bird

Sky Blue Floral Silk Mini Cheongsam

Sky Blue Floral Silk Mini Cheongsam

A-Line Sky Blue Floral Silk Mandarin Dress - Fragrance Of Orchids

A-Line Sky Blue Floral Silk Mandarin Dress – Fragrance Of Orchids

Graceful Cheongsam Blue Raglan Sleeve Flowers Printed -

Graceful Cheongsam Blue Raglan Sleeve Flowers Printed – “Over The Clouds”

Select Soft Lip Colors

In addition to color choices of your outfit, you also need to pay attention to your lipstick. See the light peach or shell pink lip colors on Ms. Zhou? You should follow her example if you are over a certain age and want to look younger. Bright lip colors must go with very youthful skin. In case your face is no longer dewy, scarlet red or hot pink lips will make your complexion look duller by contrast. Dark lip colors like burgundy or deep purple also won’t work because they will make the vertical fine lines on the lower lip (which appear on most women over 25) look more obvious. Sorry that your lip color choices are now limited, but there’s no better solution!

If you apply all the tips provided above, you will definitely like your image in the mirror more than you ever did in the past few years. Just try them out and you will see!

It’s a myth that Mandarin cheongsam dresses are just for skinny ladies. Mandarin dresses are meant to flatter a woman’s curves, so they actually won’t look very good on flat-chested women. Of course they won’t work for obese women, either, but if you are just a little heavy, like the Chinese actress in the photo below, you absolutely can pull off a Mandarin dress.

chubby girl in mandarin dress

chubby girl in mandarin dress

The Chinese actress actually can take off her coat to showcase the Mandarin dress inside, if the dress is in the right cut for her. The silhouette of a dress makes a huge difference on the wearer’s body. Just look at the photo below and you will agree.

chubby girl in cheongsam dress

chubby girl in cheongsam dress

This lovely lady gives out her height and weight, 158 cm (a little over 5’2”) and 80 kgs (176 pounds), in her blog. But she doesn’t look that heavy, right? Given her height, wouldn’t you say she looks about 140 pounds? The Mandarin dress she’s wearing, though mostly in light colors, optically slims her down thanks to the following factors:

1) A Loose fit with No Gathering around the Waist or Hips

If you want to look slimmer in a dress, the waist and hip area of the dress must be totally flat, with absolutely NO gathering. This actually makes Mandarin dresses, which normally stay flat around the waist and hips, a better choice than Western dresses. Mandarin dresses only bother body-conscious women when they are curve-hugging. They don’t have to be made so tight though. You can easily get a loose fit.

2) A Slight A line

The knee-length Mandarin dress featured in the photo above doesn’t come down exactly straight like a pencil skirt. Instead, it goes a little outward. This slight A line can offset the hip width and make you look thinner.

3) The Diagonal Placket and Diagonally Positioned Floral Pattern.

Diagonal lines somehow provide a narrowing visual effect. That makes the diagonal placket of most Mandarin dresses a flattering choice. In addition to that, you can pick a Mandarin dress with a printed pattern that goes diagonally around the waist. With these diagonal lines, even light colors can be visually trimming. Isn’t it great that you don’t have to stick to dark colors?

Here is a Mandarin dress that meet all the criteria stated above:

Ink Pattern Silk Fashion cheongsam -

Ink Pattern Silk Fashion Cheongsam – “Distant Wonderland” by ELEGENTE

This Mandarin dress is even more flattering than the one on that slightly overweight girl, because its sleeves are a bit longer. The upper arms, where fat tends to be deposited, may even be a problem area to relatively skinny women. It’s definitely a worse problem to bigger women. It may not seem too bad when you just gaze upon the front, but from the side, it will look terrible.

chubby girl in mandarin dress

chubby girl in plus size mandarin dress

See, the plus-size lady in the photo above has a young face, but her upper arm fat makes her look older. The Mandarin dress on her is actually pretty flattering, except for the sleeves, which are unfortunately too short.

To avoid this problem, choose a Mandarin dress with sleeves that cover at least the upper half of your upper arms. Elbow sleeves will be even better.

plus-size model in an elbow-sleeve Mandarin dress

plus-size model in an elbow-sleeve Mandarin dress

Doesn’t the plus-size model look fantastic in the elbow-sleeve Mandarin dress?

Please note that your elbow sleeves cannot be tight. You also need to rule out soft and elastic material, which will cling to your upper arms and look like adding an extra layer of fat to them. Choose elbow sleeves made of solid fabric, like those of the red dress shown below.

Brocade-Panel Chinese Wedding Dress by ELEGENTE

Brocade-Panel Chinese Wedding Dress by ELEGENTE

This could be an ideal engagement dress for a slightly overweight lady — the gold pattern on the central panel will draw attention inward, creating a narrowing visual effect.

If you just need a dress for daily wear, here’s something office-appropriate.

Chinese Ink Pattern Half-Sleeve Qipao Dress by ELEGENTE

Chinese Ink Pattern Half-Sleeve Qipao Dress by ELEGENTE

Have you noticed that the ink pattern is diagonally placed? This print is definitely slimming. Its fabric, linen, is solid enough to conceal body fat at the same time.

Another figure flattering Mandarin dress in linen:

Orange & Green Floral Linen Mandarin Dress by ELEGENTE

Orange & Green Floral Linen Mandarin Dress by ELEGENTE

In this print, all the green leaves are going diagonally. Besides, the orange flowers are big enough to make your body look thinner by contrast.

The same print is even more waist trimming when applied to the A-line dress shown below.

Orange & Green Floral Cotton Cheongsam Dress A-line by ELEGENTE

Orange & Green Floral Cotton Cheongsam Dress A-line by ELEGENTE

The greatest thing about this A line is: it doesn’t have any gathering at all! Most wide A-line skirts tend to have some gathering, which may increase the hip size a little bit while making the waist look smaller. This A-line Mandarin dress really has the best of both worlds — it optically narrows the waist but won’t make the hips any larger.

However, the sleeves of this extremely torso trimming dress are too short to cover upper arm fat. It’s easy to fix the small problem though. Since the dress is to be custom made, you can simply request longer sleeves.

Generally speaking, bigger women should select non-sheen fabrics because anything shiny may have an expanding visual effect. However, what if you want some luster and sparkles on your party dress? Here is a wonderful solution:

Ombre Blue & Black Silk Cheongsam With Embroidery by ELEGENTE

Ombre Blue & Black Silk Cheongsam With Embroidery by ELEGENTE

This ombre Mandarin dress is made of lustrous silk, but the black part of it looks quite subdued. Your waist and hips will be in the slimming black while the sky blue upper part of the dress emphasizes your bosom –- every fleshy woman’s best asset. In the meantime, the dress has beaded flowers on the collar and around the bottom. They won’t have any magnifying effect on your waist or hips because they are far away from there. In addition, the scalloped hem breaks the horizontal line and creates a narrowing visual effect, too. Just have the sleeves made a few inches longer. Then it’s the most flattering party dress for you!

If you prefer a longer Mandarin dress, here is a nice choice:

Floral Watered Gauze Silk Qipao In Knee Length by ELEGENTE

Floral Watered Gauze Silk Qipao In Knee Length by ELEGENTE

It’s mostly black but not all black. Too many women wear all black in order to look skinnier, so that’s boring. You want the slimming effect of black but not the monotony of all black. The red floral print on this dress definitely vivifies the black!

By now, you are not reluctant to try on a Mandarin dress any more, right? As long as you follow the tips from this article, Mandarin dresses will keep giving you pleasant surprises!

Plaid is a print that never goes out of style. It is especially popular this fall for a new twist — mixture. Yes, you can mix and match different plaid patterns this season, as shown on two of the runway models in the image bellow.

Plaid print dress

2014 fashion trend – mixed plaid print

Start with a Black and White or Neutral Plaid

How can you mix and match plaid patterns without ending up looking like a mess? The trick is: one of your plaid patterns must be in black and white or neutral colors, because two bright plaid patterns tend to clash.

Below is a stylish black and white plaid coat that will work with all other plaid patterns.

Chinese Style Classic White-And-Black Plaid Dress With Overcoat

Chinese Style Classic White-And-Black Plaid Dress With Overcoat

If you keep the buttons of the coat open, what you are wearing inside will be peeping through, and that can be something in another plaid pattern for this fall’s mixed plaid trend.

Preppy Plaid Dresses

We see more plaid dresses this fall than ever. This is a great opportunity for us to stock up on plaid cheongsam dresses because they won’t go out of fashion. Certain classic items are forever, and plaid dresses definitely belong to the category.

The timeless appeal of plaid dresses comes from their preppy look. A plaid dress makes a teen or 20-something look like a good student, a 30-something like a researcher, and a 40-something like a scholar.

No matter what age you are, you will appear more highly educated in a plaid dress. That means plaid dresses, especially those in sheath form, can help you project a professional image in the workplace.

If you like to have a stand-up collar slenderize your neck and keep you warm, a plaid Mandarin dress will be your perfect office attire in the fall. Below are two nice options:

Vintage Plaid Cheongsam With Chinese Buttons Stand Collar by ELEGENTE

Vintage Plaid Cheongsam With Chinese Buttons Stand Collar by ELEGENTE

Elegant Classic Brown Plaid Chinese Cheongsam Dress by ELEGENTE

Elegant Classic Brown Plaid Chinese Cheongsam Dress by ELEGENTE

If you are body-conscious, pick a bias-cut, diamond-shaped plaid pattern, which will be slimming.

Designers Vintage Chinese Dress Plaid Pattern In Vintage Style Qipao Gown

Designers Vintage Chinese Dress Plaid Pattern In Vintage Style Qipao Gown

If you don’t care for the Mandarin collar, here is a modern plaid sheath.

Vintage Loyal School Style Plaid Dress Coffee With Red Leather Waistband

Vintage Loyal School Style Plaid Dress Coffee With Red Leather Waistband

All of the plaid dresses shown above will work fabulously with the black and white plaid coat recommended above. Putting the coat over one of the dresses will bring you lots of compliments!

When Miss Hong Kong 2014 was crowned on Aug 31, she and two runners-up were all wearing the same modernized Mandarin dress in floor length. The gown keeps the standup collar and column silhouette of the traditional Mandarin dress, but goes without Chinese frog buttons. Another difference is, instead of two side slits, this modern version has one high slit on the center left to reveal most of the left leg.

Miss Hong Kong in cheongsam dress

Miss Hong Kong in cheongsam dress

This design came out in summer but is very typical of fall 2014. These days, many fall fashion window displays feature sleek evening gowns that look Mandarin-dress-inspired. They all come in a column silhouette, just as a typical Mandarin dress does, but instead of having two side slits, they usually have only one slit, which can be in any position.

The one-slit designs look fashionable, but are they leg-flattering?

Miss Hong Kong being crowned in qipao dress

Miss Hong Kong 2014 being crowned in qipao dress

Take a close look at the photo above, and you will see bulky calves. Aren’t you surprised? These beauty pageant winners have model-like figures. It’s hard to believe their calves are so thick! Most likely, that’s not the way their calves normally look –- the center-left slit just doesn’t do them justice!

A high slit on one side of the front panel is actually an UNFLATTERING design. Here’s another example.

Winners of Miss Hong Kong 2014 in long qipao dress

Miss Hong Kong 2014 winners in long qipao dress

Emma Watson wearing a white embroidered qipao dress

Emma Watson wearing white embroidered qipao dress

The white gown on Emma Watson has a high slit on the center right of the front panel, through which her right leg looks thick, too. However, Emma Watson’s legs usually look much leaner and prettier when she wears other dresses. Proof is in the photo below.

Emma Watson in a wine red dress

Emma Watson in a wine red dress

See, her legs look so slender underneath the short dress, but her right leg looks bulky through the center-right high slit of that white gown. It just means the front panel is NOT a good place for a high slit.

While modern gowns don’t need to copy the two side slits of the traditional Mandarin dress, it’s still better to put their one high slit on the side! Let’s look at Kylie Jenner’s photo below.

Kylie Jenner in a side split black skirt

Kylie Jenner in a side split black skirt

As you can see, Kylie’s legs look lean and nice through the side slit. How come the position of the slit make such a difference?

It’s because calf muscles are on the inner calves, which won’t show through side slits. A slit on the front panel, on the other hand, reveals the muscular inner calf. If it’s only one calf that’s exposed, the calf will look thicker in contrast with the narrow slit. That’s why Emma Watson’s right leg looks bulky through the center-right slit of her white gown despite how lean her legs usually look.

For the sake of creating new trends, fashion designers may launch all kinds of crazy designs, but it’s us consumers who have to figure out how to avoid becoming a fashion victim. Now, we know high slits are in, but we also know a front panel slit is unflattering, so what should we do? Easy — we just pick long dresses with high SIDE slits to be trendy and look fantastic at the same time.

Classic designs usually have good reasons behind them. They must flatter most people to stand the test of time. So, when it comes to slits, we should look no further than those in Mandarin dresses, which have been classic in China for centuries.

Below is a modernized Mandarin dress somewhat similar to that floral gown on Miss Hong Kong.

A full length qipao gown

A long length qipao gown

This Mandarin dress also goes without Chinese frog buttons, and it comes with a pastel floral print on white, too. In the meantime, it’s more flattering than the Miss Hong Kong dress not only because it comes with two side slits instead of one center-left slit, but also because its floral print only appears on the front panel — colorblocking is always slimming.

If you are a skinny lady who can do without the slimming effect, here is another long Mandarin dress with a subtle floral print on white silk.

Ethereal White Floral Mandarin Dress

Ethereal White Floral Mandarin Dress

At your next formal event, one of the two Mandarin dresses shown above will make you resemble Miss Hong Kong without optically thickening your legs!

If you prefer darker or stronger colors than pastels, here is a Mandarin-dress-inspired evening gown that will take your breath away.

Hand Painted Long Cheongsam Dresses Green

Hand Painted Long Cheongsam Dresses Green

With hand-painted pink peony flowers and gold leaves on hunter green silk, this gown is as glamorous as it gets! It will make you turn heads at any gala. Plus, since peony symbolizes “wealth” and “status” in Chinese culture, it can be an auspicious dress for your engagement or an elderly relative’s birthday party.

Speaking of celebrations, it’s a Chinese tradition to host a big dinner banquet one month after a baby’s birth. In the West, new parents will wait until the baby’s first birthday to put on such a party. Either way the new mom may not have lost all the baby weight before the occasion. If that’s you, what would be the most slimming dress for you?

Violet Purple Silk Cheongsam Dress With Black Lace Placket

Violet Purple Silk Cheongsam Dress With Black Lace Placket

This is an imitation of what a Taiwanese actress, nicknamed Little S, wore to celebrate her baby’s recent birth. The dark purple and the way the solid silk fabric drapes can both work to slenderize you.

It’s worth mentioning that Little S is 5’1” and a half (156 cm) according to official records, and some people even say she’s only five feet (152 -153 cm), but she looks quite tall in the photo above. That’s what a long gown in the column silhouette does for you — it optically elongates you.

If you want to look taller, take advantage of the current trend to get some Mandarin-dress-inspired column gowns this fall! Just keep in mind to choose side slits over front slits. Then you will love how you look!

After the Chinese economic reform since 1978, cheongsam dress was given a new lease of life in mainland China. The wives of many previous leaders of China had wore cheongsam dress when visiting abroad. The new-era cheongsam dress remained the designs from the 1930’s – 1940’s of the Republic. Only some basic changes on the length or ornaments.

Except for the precious collections of cheongsam dresses of different ages, the museum also exhibits the cheongsam dress wore by the Miss etiquettes of 2008 Beijing Olympics, and the one wore by Ms. Kao Wong-Mei-Wan when she accompanied her husband to attend 2009 Nobel Prize Award Ceremony.

The faculty from the Institute of Textiles & Clothing of Hong Kong Polytechnic University has specially designed and made cheongsams for this event, to show how they combine cheongsam designs to their work of education.

Cheongsam-Dress-Exhibition-Pt-v-(1)

The Honorable Sir Charles Kuen Kao, also known as “Father of Fiber Optic Communications”, won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics. Her wife order this tailor-made cheongsam dress (upper left) in Hong Kong, and wore it to accompany Mr. Kao to attend the awarding ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden. The cheongsam was designed by Mr. Wong Chi-Keung.

Upper right is a uniform design with elements of cheongsam dress wore by a Miss Etiquette of 2008 Beijing Olympics, a collection of Hong Kong Museum of Art.

Cheongsam-Dress-Exhibition-Pt-v-(2)

Upper left, a cheongsam dress of the 1990’s, a property of Mrs. Christina Look Ngan Kwan.

Upper right, a cheongsam dress of the 1990’s, a property of Mrs. Wah Wai Na. Mrs. Wah would wear cheongsam dress as her daily outfit, and to attend important occasions.

Cheongsam-Dress-Exhibition-Pt-v-(3)

Upper left, a K’o-ssu cheongsam dress. After the end of 1960’s, cheongsam dress was not as popular, but there’re some time-honored stores in Hong Kong would sell cheongsam dress.

Upper right, a cheongsam dress designed by Shiatzy Chen.

Cheongsam-Dress-Exhibition-Pt-v-(4)

Upper left, a cheongsam dress by Blanc de Chine.

Upper right, a cheongsam dress by Blanc de Chine.

Cheongsam-Dress-Exhibition-Pt-v-(5)

Upper left, a cheongsam dress by Blanc de Chine.

Upper right, “Evolution” designed by Ms. Lam Chi Hin, provided by the Institute of Textiles & Clothing of Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Cheongsam-Dress-Exhibition-Pt-v-(6)

Upper left, “Deconstruction of Cheongsam dress” by Ms. Gloria Wong, provided by the Institute of Textiles & Clothing of Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Upper right, “Deconstruction of Cheongsam dress” by Ms. Gloria Wong, provided by the Institute of Textiles & Clothing of Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Cheongsam-Dress-Exhibition-Pt-v-(7)

Upper left, a cheongsam dress designed by Ms. Cheng Hiu, provided by the Institute of Textiles & Clothing of Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Upper right, “Capture the significant figure of women” by Ms. Tsoi Wing Yin, provided by the Institute of Textiles & Clothing of Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Most women only wear cheongsam on Chinese New Year and for weddings, but there are a few who wear it often because they love its beauty and elegance.

ABOUT 10 years ago, a movie starring Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung was as much remembered for powerhouse performances from these two as it was for the cheongsams Cheung paraded throughout the show. Until today, Cheung remains the poster-woman for how the cheongsam should be worn, with reserve and smouldering (some say blatant) sex appeal.

In The Mood For Love sealed the deal for me, as I’m sure it did for a whole generation of women like me who either once thought that cheongsam was a fashion relic, or was repelled by dragon print cheongsam that you would only wear if you were pushing a dim sum cart in a Chinese restaurant.

says communications manager Stephanie Tan who has 12 cheongsams in her collection.

Resplendent: Jay Mee in a cheongsam for Chinese New Year.

There are however few cheongsam converts like Tan among Malaysian women.

In the past few weeks, there are cheongsams hanging from racks in boutiques and market stalls, but that is only because Chinese New Year is around the corner. At least we get more varied designs with imports from China these days, instead of the predictable brocade cheongsam that was about the only choice available for the longest time.

Chinese New Year is the only time most Chinese women would wear cheongsam, and perhaps occasionally during weddings and dinners.

Unlike the baju kurung and sari, cheongsam is rarely the choice for Chinese women’s daily wear.

It’s about perception. In the movies and television series we used to watch, the women who wore cheongsams were kept women or high class prostitutes. We only see waitresses in cheongsams. So, there is a certain identity associated with the cheongsam,

says personal assistant Adleen Mustapha, 36.

Lee basking in the beauty of her cheongsam collection.

Most women also find it daunting to wear the cheongsam because its tight-fitting form is unforgiving on flaws and bulges. The poster women for cheongsam – like Nancy Kwan in The World Of Suzie Wong and Maggie Cheung in In The Mood For Love – have hourglass figures, flat stomachs and long legs.

It takes a lot of confidence, says Adleen. But she also believes it’s all in the cut and fit of the dress.

The cheongsam shows off a woman’s shape when it is nicely tailored. It doesn’t mean you have to be stick thin to wear one. It really depends on the tailoring,

she says.

She has five cheongsam, and she usually chooses them based on their detailing and the fabric’s unusual prints.

I chose this cheongsam for its black and white print. Cheongsams are usually not in these colours, so it’s quite special. It’s also very comfortable,

says Adleen, who wore the black and white cheongsam she bought in a shop in Penang.

Vintage appeal

Singer Janet Lee, 35, certainly has the confidence to carry off her cheongsam.

Janet Lee has over 50 cheongsams in her collection.

She loves cheongsam, and has over 50 hanging in her wardrobe. Her collection ranges from short casual ones to over-the-top sequinned concoctions.

Lee prefers her cheongsam tailored the traditional way.

Except for the six pieces I had made in Shenzhen, everything else is second-hand or vintage. I notice that most modern tailors adopt modern finishings to the cheongsam, such as zips (replacing press buttons), low and soft collars (as opposed to vintage three-inch hard collars), a zip down the back as opposed to side zip with press buttons (the old-fashioned way). Even how the tailor cut the cloth to make the dress silhouette is now different. I think mass-produced cheongsams have lost the old-school romantic factor. So, I prefer to shop for and wear the vintage ones,

she says.

Lee started buying and wearing cheongsam about 10 years ago.

My best friend and I would scour the flea markets for classic cuts and unusual designs on the cheongsam. I started wearing them because I am always game to try something new in my daily wardrobe, and what is better than elegant and sexy chinese traditional wear as going out gear? Furthermore, we are getting these outfits for a very good price in the secondhand market circuit,

she says.

Lee also wears cheongsam when she performs on stage, and she has several dressier showpieces. She picks one out to show us, a gorgeous red number with sequins and embroidery, which she got from a friend.

Tan tailored this cheongsam with material she bought from Shanghai for less than RM100.
When you wear a cheongsam, you are saying ‘Look at me.’ Whether I am wearing a fantastic piece for a song, or a short, casual one out for dinner, it shows confidence. Because of the cut of the garment, you have to stand straight and tall. You elongate your body. And of course the cheongsam shows off your figure. So, you really have to be comfortable in your own skin,

she says.

I see more ladies wearing cheongsam these days at parties and social gatherings, in full variety. It’s very encouraging, and I think cheongsam is making a comeback.

When she sees another woman wearing a nice cheongsam, Lee’s first thought is “Good one! I want to know where she got it from!”

True to her roots

Jay Mee Chuah, 32, started wearing the cheongsam during her secondary schooldays because she loves how it enhances a woman’s feminity

I have always admired ladies in cheongsam because it is designed to show off the natural softness of the female form, and it also creates the illusion of slender legs. It makes women look more elegant, and sexy yet classy.

She has six cheongsams, and all were tailored in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

She wears them for prom nights, themed parties, birthdays, Chinese New Year.

But the most important occasion she wore cheongsam was her wedding.

I knew I’d wear my mother’s cheongsam, which is very precious and beautiful. It’s in a shimmering red material and stunning.  But on the other hand I wanted to design one so that I could pass it on to my daughter. I ended up wearing both cheongsams – my mother’s for my tea ceremony and my own for my wedding dinner.

I chose fuschia and matched it with gold lace, to give it a traditional, yet modern look. I love the design very much and was so glad it turned out well. I had friends asking me for ideas to design their cheongsams after that,

she says.

Chuah says cheongsam reminds her of her roots and is sad people no longer wear it regularly.

Today, most people shy away from wearing cheongsam, saying that it is too formal or grand for everyday wear, too body hugging, or that the high collar is too uncomfortable for our weather. Or they think it makes them look old.

But I disagree. A cheongsam can be as casual and as comfortable as any dress. The beauty of the cheongsam is that it can be made of different materials and in various lengths. To me, it has a simple and quiet charm, an elegance and neatness that truly reflect our Chinese culture,” she says.

Quirky interpretations

Tan loves the elegance of cheongsam, and she likes them best with a contemporaty twist. She bought 10 of her cheongsams off the rack, and is drawn to those in quirky prints and unconventional materials like denim and linen, and with unusual detailing like a panda brooch.

My favourite is the one I bought recently – it’s knee-length, made with wool-silk blend fabric with a charmingly quirky crocodile print,

she says.

I have a few casual cheongsams that I wear to work and I save the dressier pieces for dinners and functions. I last wore one for dinner with my husband a few weeks ago – he loves me in cheongsams too.

In this second episode of our Uniquely Hong Kong series, a third generation tailor tells us the history of qipao, and why the art of Chinese tailoring has a special place in his heart.

At 63, Kan Hong-wing admits he’s one of the youngest – and the last – qipao tailors in Hong Kong.

The owner of Mei Wah Fashion, Kan is one of a dwindling number of tailors who specialises in qipao – also known as Mandarin gowns – which were originally wide, loose dresses worn by Manchus as casual wear during the Qing dynasty (1644 to 1912). Over time, the dresses have taken on the body-hugging forms of today.

Friendly and talkative, Kan is passionate about his craft.

His shop, located on the corner of Queen’s Road West in Sheung Wan, is hard to miss. Curious shoppers can be seen peering through its windows, drawn to the bright colours and elegant designs displayed inside.

Kan is a third generation qipao tailor. His grandfather started the business in the 1920s.

Kan says the 1940s to 1960s were a golden era for the qipao. “Everyone wore them then. Women wore qipaos to work, to the wet market and in the kitchen.” explains Kan.

Hong Kong saw the arrival of over a 100 qipao tailors from Shanghai in the late 1940s. They were part of the great influx of mainland refugees into the city – fleeing the turmoil across the border.

These shifu (“masters”) once served the upper echelons of Shanghai society, including the wives of tycoons and politicians. But life was tough for them in Hong Kong. They often had to sleep in the streets and take any work they could. Others fled to Hong Kong later during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). This was a time when fashion was considered a luxury, recalls Kan.

“People wore uniforms {in China in the 1960s}. The pursuit of beauty was [considered] selfish, and a sin,” explains Kan. “It is different now. During the 1970s, and afterwards, the Chinese began to dress in a more western-style. Now all the old Shanghai-born tailors are in their 70s and 80s. I am the youngest qipao tailor in Hong Kong, and I’m 63,” he exclaims.

Kan says there are now less than 10 Shanghai shifu in the city. Mei Wah employs three of them.

He insists his craft always reflects his own work – not a client’s body shape. “Your body shape has no bearing on how good you look,” he adds, almost indignantly. “A master will tailor the qipao so anyone can look good in it.”

His quiet pride isn’t in the beautiful things he makes, but in the reaction from customers. “If you don’t like it, I won’t charge you,” he says.

Every woman is different; it’s like getting different hands each time you play mahjong.

There’s customer-shop confidentiality, too. In recent years, qipaos have been memorably featured in some films. Kan believes some qipaos in films lack authenticity, although he won’t reveal the names of celebrity clients he has made them for.

As the master tailor carefully lays out the different materials he is currently working with, Kan says: “Westerners and traditional Chinese have two different concepts of beauty. Western dresses expose more of your assets; but we Chinese treat a woman’s assets like a mystery, like a treasure waiting to be found.

Kan speaks of his craft with great reverence. “You can’t cut corners,” he says, almost disapprovingly. “Half an inch is half an inch. It might as well be closer to 10 inches – it’s still a mistake.”

He hand-stitches his hems and creates his own designs for the floral-inspired buttons. He even does the embroidery by hand.

Kan is very careful choosing materials for customers. “Different clients use different cloth, according to age, shape, nationality, etc. Every woman is different; it’s like getting different hands each time you play mahjong,” he says, laughing.

The most expensive, but popular materials in his shop are lace and velvet. Kan’s creations are priced from HK$4,000 to HK$20,000.

Qipao tailoring is not a profession for the faint-hearted. As well as having to undergo years of apprenticeship, it also demands character. “If you want to be a qipao tailor, you must have: responsibility to the craft, an eye for detail, talent and passion,” Kan stresses.

Then, he chuckles. “Of course, you also have to expect you won’t earn much – so you might not be able to support your family very well.”

He remarks sadly that his craft is dying – at least in Hong Kong. A few young people approached him learning the craft, but most could not stand the tedium. But he ventures that perhaps tailors from the mainland will come to Hong Kong once again and revive the craft. The demand is here. Kan doubts it will ever go away. “It’s a testimony to how Hong Kong treasures the craft – how long it’s lasted.”

He sees his own role as being true to himself and his craft. “If I can stand and walk tall, then I know I am doing some good in the world.”

Kan Hong-wing’s Mei Wah Fashion can be found at 76 Queen’s Road West, Sheung Wan. Tel: 2543-6889. Be sure to book in advance.

my one and only cheongsamA new color, a different fabric, a button here, a collar there … That’s how fashion designers keep us interested season after season. Every few years they make a bigger change, often one that’s directly related to our bodies and how much of them we show.

Skinny jeans that reveal our derrieres have been in style for a while now. So have sleeveless dresses. (Thank you, Michelle Obama.) For a long time waistlines were out. Now they’re in. We don’t see as many bare midriffs as we did in the 1970s. Maybe that’s next.

Historically, though, women’s clothing has been more about hiding the female form than in revealing it. And yet, even those floor-length Victorian dresses often had low-cut necklines. And Japanese women covered by their kimonos still bared the backs of their necks.

qipao, times past, sm., image by Dennis Jarvis, wikimedia commonsFor centuries in China, the high-class female body was well hidden. Then in 1920s Shanghai, the cheongsam (also known as the qipao) was born, and suddenly everything was revealed: arms, breasts, waistline, hips, buttocks, and legs. The Manchu dress on which it was modeled was wide and loose, covering everything except the wearer’s head, hands, and toes.

qipao, sm. from Chinatodayqipao, from wikimedia, 410px-Zhou_Xuan_by_C.H.Wong_Photo_StudioNot long after the Qing Dynasty was overthrown, the dressmakers in Shanghai found a way to totally revamp the Manchu dress. They nipped it in at the waist, cut off the sleeves, shortened the skirt, and cut a slit up the side. Celebrities, the upper class, and courtesans were the first to wear the daring style.

Meanwhile, in the West, the flapper look of the 1920s required a flattened bust under a straight-line chemise or a loose low-waist dress. The main things a “flapper” revealed were her arms and legs. It wasn’t until the 1930s that fashion in America and Europe began to reveal every part of the female form. (See “The Way We Look Now” in The Atlantic, May 2014.)

qipao,mother's6In my novel, Tiger Tail Soup, the women all wear cheongsams for some occasions. It was the 1930s and ‘40s, and the cheongsam was popular all over China. Upper- and middle-class women had cheongsams for summer and winter, for parties and for everyday wear. Some dresses were long; others, short or knee-length. They had high slits and slits that were more modest.

a full-length winter cheongsam lined with rabbit fur

In 1949 when the Communists came to power, the cheongsam disappeared in Mainland China in favor of more simple wear. It survived, however, in Hong Kong and among the Overseas Chinese throughout the world. In recent years, it has made a comeback in China, where it’s worn now on special occasions.

You can find qipaos/cheongsams on-line in every price range, from under $100 for a simple ready-made dress to over $1000 for an exclusive tailor-made style. Just one warning: A fitted cheongsam shows every curve and bulge. Plus, you have to stand up straight and hold your tummy in when you’re wearing one. When you’re sitting, you have to squeeze your knees together. And it’s not a good idea to sit on the floor in a cheongsam.

Have you ever worn a cheongsam/qipao? Do you have a closet full of them?

– See more at: http://nickichenwrites.com/