The elegant qipao has a distinctive man- darin collar and slitted skirt that reaches mid- thigh. The traditional Chinese women’s national dress is an imagery of China made popular by Hollywood in the 1920s and 1930s.

The qipao, also known as the cheongsam, originated in Manchurian China during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Qipao was originally a long, wide, loose- tting garment. Legend has it that a  sherwoman made it more practical and less cumbersome by making it slimmer, but with slits at the sides to en- able her to tuck the front of the customized “qipao” in. At the same time, legend said the young emperor woke from a dream that said a  sherwoman in a qipao would become his consort. He sent his men out to  nd the  sherwoman and the  sherwoman became the emperor’s wife.

Since then, Manchu women copied the  sherwoman’s qipao style. With the fall of the Qing Dynasty and great social change, tailors found a way to revamp the qipao. The waist was nipped, dress shortened, sleeves also were shortened and the entire qipao was slimmed down to hip the curves. One of the socialites of the time, the in uential Soong

Ching-ling, wore the  gure-hugging gown and made it the fashion de rigeur for women all over China – the symbol of modernity.

The qipao was phased out with the dawn of the Cultural Revolution, which dictated the uniformity of the unisex Mao suit. After the Cultural Revolution, western in uence increased and the qipao was only worn at formal occasions.

In recent years, it has made a comeback in mainstream fashion. In 2007, the Shang- hai Cheongsam Salon was created to pro- mote the elegance of the national dress. The 2013 Beijing Fashion Week had a number of pieces inspired by the qipao. And fashion houses such as Dior, Gucci, Lauren, Versace and Vuitton had been incorporating ele- ments of the qipao on their runways. Could a qipao revival be close behind? ♦

Terms Of Use

Terms of Use All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without prior written permission of the publisher. For permission requests, contact [email protected] with subject line “Permission request.”


CHINAINSIGHT (CI) is published monthly ((except July/August and November/December are combined) by China Insight, Inc., an independent, privately owned company started in 2001 and headquartered in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota.

CHINAINSIGHT is the only English-language American newspaper to focus exclusively on connections between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Our goal is to develop a mutual understanding of each other’s cultures and business environments and to foster U.S.-China cultural and business harmony.