Few things por­tray a Chi­nese woman’s beauty bet­ter than the A woman must be re­served and gen­tle to look per­fect in the dress, and these traits are con­sis­tent with the Chi­nese iden­tity.”

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

It was a dress that ev­ery Shang­hai woman had in the 1930s and to­day, it re­mains a bride’s musthave for her wed­ding day. Af­ter some twists and turns, qi­pao stands as an un­spo­ken Chi­nese icon.

China’s first lady Peng Liyuan prompted a con­tin­u­ous sparkle of cam­era flashes when she wore qi­pao- style dresses dur­ing her hus­band’s State vis­its. Ex­perts be­lieve the so-called “Liyuan style” will stim­u­late the re­ju­ve­na­tion of the tra­di­tional gar­ment.

“Few things por­tray a Chi­nese woman’s beauty bet­ter than the qi­pao. A woman must be re­served and gen­tle to look per­fect in the dress, and these traits are con­sis­tent with the Chi­nese iden­tity,” said Bao Mingxin, a re­tired pro­fes­sor from the Fash­ion and Art De­sign In­sti­tute of Donghua Univer­sity.

Qi­pao best suits the Chi­nese fe­male fig­ure, Bao said. “It is de­mand­ing on the fig­ure but women with slen­der curves wear it best. Those who are too big or too curvy may look funny in the dress.”

Guo Pei, a de­signer of qi­pao for Miss Eti­quette at the Bei­jing 2008 Olympics, said the tra­di­tional gar­ment is very dif­fer­ent from Western-style clothes. “Western dresses give shape to peo­ple of all di­men­sions, but the soft fab­ric of qi­pao only looks good on a cer­tain fig­ure,” she said.

Qi­pao be­gan to get pop­u­lar in China in the 1920s. Ex­perts be­lieve it is de­rived from the Manchu robe in the Qing Dy­nasty (1644-1911), which was, how­ever, wide, flat, and heavy, mod­estly hid­ing the fig­ure.

The dress be­gan

its in­no­va­tion in Shang­hai and en­joyed a golden age in the 1930s af­ter ab­sorb­ing Western cut­ting skills. Fold­ing was used at the chest and waist and setin sleeves and shoul­der seams made the dress fit per­fectly.

“Qi­pao made history in those years by de­mon­strat­ing women’s shape. Af­ter gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity in Shang­hai, led by young stu­dents, it be­came stan­dard at­tire na­tion­wide,” said Bao, an ex­pert in China’s fash­ion cul­ture and history.

With the im­port of ap­parel fab­ric, China ush­ered in its first fash­ion sea­son. Shang­hai’s lead­ing fash­ion dress com­pany, Hongx­i­ang, in­vited movie stars to qi­pao run­way shows. Six dresses made by Hongx­i­ang were shown at the Chicago World Expo in 1933.

Soong Ching-ling, whose hus­band Dr Sun Yat-sen was the found­ing fa­ther of the first Re­pub­lic of China, had a clas­sic look of wear­ing a cardi­gan with qi­pao, which trig­gered a fash­ion of mix­ing and match­ing among fe­male in­tel­lec­tu­als.

How­ever, af­ter the found­ing of the Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic of China in 1949, peo­ple ded­i­cated them­selves to work, so la­bor clothes re­placed qi­pao, and it was aban­doned dur­ing the “cul­tural revo­lu­tion” (1966-76).

The fash­ion de­sign in­dus­try pros­pered in the 1980s but de­sign­ers and con­sumers un­der Western in­flu­ence fa­vored jeans and boots. “Qi­pao, which was left out for three decades, seemed out­dated,” Bao said.

The trend of wear­ing qi­pao fi­nally re­turned in the 1990s when peo­ple re­ex­am­ined the tra­di­tional cul­ture. The dress be­gan to reap­pear fre­quently in films, fash­ion shows and beauty con­tests.

Women wear qi­pao at im­por­tant oc­ca­sions at home and abroad to­day and stu­dents bring the dress when they go over­seas for ed­u­ca­tion.

“I wore qi­pao at balls and ban­quets with stu­dents from all over the world be­cause it’s a widely rec­og­nized Chi­nese iden­tity. I don’t need to in­tro­duce my­self and peo­ple will know I’m from China,” said Wang Yi­jia, 26, who went to the United States for grad­u­ate study in 2013.

a Chi­nese fash­ion pun­dit

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Qi­pao,

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