+ By having a seamstress or tailor make yourqipao, you’ll get the ultimate hands-on experience. Just like having any garment handmade, you’ll consult with the designer about the style and fabric of your choice. You’ll have a muslin fitting, which will help to perfect your design, and you’ll have at least one additional fitting to fine-tune yourqipao.
+ A seamstress who is experienced with qipaos can easily help you go as by-the-book or as one-of-a-kind as you like. If you have a picture of a qipao you love, she may be able to help you re-create it. If you have something more standard in mind, she should be able to show you patterns or photos of other dresses she has made that can help you make your decision.
– As you might have guessed, having a qipao made may be fairly expensive. The amount of customization you are looking for, the type of fabric you choose, and other factors, such as location, can change the price.
– If you live in New York City or San Francisco, for example, finding a tailor who specializes in qipaos will likely be no trouble at all. In other areas of the country, finding someone to make a qipao may be difficult, if not impossible.
+ Even when shipping is taken into account, online prices can be hard to beat. Online shops that specialize in qipaos are often based in Hong Kong or Taiwan, so while FedEx can cost a bundle, these companies generally work with large volumes of orders and can keep prices low.
+ Similarly though, having your qipao shipped halfway around the world can take some time, depending on just how much you’re willing to pay for shipping. Exact times vary, but a general time estimate is anywhere from a month to a few days.
– Because you’re not using a seamstress, you’ll miss out on hands-on service. Though many online retailers offer a fair amount of customization, you generally still have to choose from a set menu of options. If you do choose to buy online, you should still see a tailor to have your measurements taken. Though there are online guides for how to do it, ask a pro to be sure your measurements have been taken correctly. When you upload your measurements onto a website, check first as to whether they are asking for inches or centimeters, and convert your numbers if necessary.
– Because you aren’t seeing the options firsthand, it can be hard to know how yourqipao will look until you have the finished product — which, because you’re having it custom-made, most likely won’t be returnable. Be especially careful about matching colors: Many hues don’t look quite the same in a digital photo or on a computer screen as they do in real life, especially reds. If you’re not sure, look into ordering a sample of the fabric or provide your own (though this may add to your final cost) to make sure you like the shade.
A few factors to keep in mind
A full-length qipao is customary for weddings. To be sure your tailor gets the right measurement, pick out your shoes first (and of course, don’t forget to bring them with you to the seamstress!).
Modern qipaos are usually very narrow, so slits are cut into the skirt to allow for walking. Be sure to have your tailor take measurements for these as well, so that you are comfortable with the amount of leg that’s being revealed.
You’ll need extra measurements if you plan to wear an especially fitted style. In the least, you’ll want to get your upper arm and collar circumferences measured. And, if you have chosen a style with a narrower skirt, your tailor may also ask for thigh and hip measurements as well.
Customizing fabric is only the beginning. Be sure to look at all of your options of collar, button or other closure, and trim styles you might want. You may have an heirloom in-the-making.
— Kate Wood