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.
says communications manager Stephanie Tan who has 12 cheongsams in her collection.
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.
says personal assistant Adleen Mustapha, 36.
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.
She has five cheongsam, and she usually chooses them based on their detailing and the fabric’s unusual prints.
says Adleen, who wore the black and white cheongsam she bought in a shop in Penang.
Singer Janet Lee, 35, certainly has the confidence to carry off her cheongsam.
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.
Lee started buying and wearing cheongsam about 10 years ago.
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.
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
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.
Chuah says cheongsam reminds her of her roots and is sad people no longer wear it regularly.
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.