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Why do I love the Qi Pao?

Maggie Cheung (In the Mood for Love ~ set in Hong Kong 1962)
Is it the way a Qi Pao is cut, fashioned, embroidered or even worn that attracts me to it like love at first sight? I love the Qi Pao which is also known as Cheongsam or simply a Chinese dress.....but it is so much more than that! From the silky brocade, the rich thread tapestry of embroidery, the stiffly noble high collar, the sharply unforgiving cut to accentuate the female form and the seductively high slit; it makes the Qi Pao a beautiful piece of art that represent hundred of years in the evolution of Chinese culture. When I rise to the occasion of wearing one of these great beauties every Chinese New Year, I am reminded of what is beautiful in the history and culture as well as how Chinese roots has infused my life. Make no mistake, as the Qi Pao truly is an unforgiving garment that will display every imperfection I have with the greatest clarity and remind me that I lack the ideal proportion of beauty. But for all its beauty and all its cruelty, I love the Qi Pao and can not stop collecting them like highly prized art.
Fan Bing Bing (Last night of Madam Chin ~ set in Shanghai 1930s-1940s)
As Shanghai singing girls......
Drama: The Last Night of Madam Chin

The Qi Pao is certainly a timeless piece and a reminder of female liberation through the ages, but it is also one of the reasons that attracted me to the historically glamorous 1930s to 1940s Shanghai. The golden combination of fur, pearls, high heels, Marcel waved hair and Qi Pao is still my favourite look. I can easily understand how women spent whatever they could in order to get a new Qi Pao custom made by their favourite tailor or dressmaker, and just had to be seen in a new Qi Pao at different parties! As the make and style of the Qi Pao often told the stories of the women's lives; whether one was a Shanghai dancing girl or a Beijing high society maiden, all could be told from the Qi Pao. At the height of its popularity in the 1940s, Qi Pao loving ladies across China were jolted into a world of war and the Qi Pao became an icon for one of the most painful periods of history.
My plum blossom blue long QiPao with a faux fur coat and pearls.

How can I not love such a beautiful garment that represents so much, gives so much and has inspired designers like Issey Miyaki, Valentino and Pierre Cardin? It is art, it is history and it is is the Qi Pao! Finally, I leave you with a visual taster of what it was like to waltz the night away in a glamorous Qi Pao during 1929, and the sounds from one of the most famous stars of 1930s to 1940s Shanghai......Zhou Xuan:

Shanghai video link:

Zhou Xuan video link:

More recent movies and adaptations of the Golden Shanghai period as well as the Qi Pao:
Gong Li in 'Shanghai' (movie 2011).

Until the next time,
May xx
Note: Some of the photos are my own, but some of the photos have been borrowed from other websites or blogs. For more new and updated posts on Qi Pao, please click here => Label~QiPao


  1. Such a great post! It's always interesting to read about the history of the 1940s - 60s in different cultures. For instance, I love vintage, but when I wear it, I wonder what someone sees who went through all the cruelties non-whites were subjected to during that period. But the aesthetics of the clothing, the details, the composition make vintage clothing like the Qi Pao worth researching and reviving!



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♥ May xx

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