Qipao / Cheongsam is an elegant type of Chinese dress. This close－fitting
dress with a high neck and the slits on the sides, comes from
China's Manchu Nationality.
There is a legend that a young fisherwoman lived by the Jingbo
Lake. She was not only beautiful, but also clever and skillful.
But when fishing, she often felt hindered by her long and loose
fitting dress. Then an idea struck her: why not make a more
practical dress for work？ She got down to sewing and
produced a long multi-looped-button gown with slits,
which enabled her to tuck in the front piece of her dress, thus
making her job much easier. As a fisherwoman, she never dreamed
that a fortune would befall on her.
The young emperor who ruled China at that time had a dream one
night. In the dream, his dead father told him that a lovely
fisherwoman in Qipao by the Jingbo Lake would become his
queen. After awakening from his deep sleep, the emperor sent his
men to look for her. Sure enough, there she was！ So she
became the queen, bringing her Cheongsam with her. Manchu women
all followed suit and soon the Qipao became popular.
We do not know whether the story is true or not. But one thing is
certain. The Cheongsam came from the Manchus who grew out of
ancient Nuzhen tribes. In the early 17th century, Nurhachi, a
great political and military strategist, unified the various
Nuzhen tribes and set up the Eight Banners System. Over the years,
a collarless, tube-shaped gown was developed, which was
worn by both men and women. That is the embryo of the Qipao.
The dress is called Qipao in Chinese or translated as
"banner gown", for it came from the people who lived under the
Chinese apparel Qipao became popular among ladies of the royal family in
the Qing Dynasty. At that time, Qipaos were fitted loosely and
were so long that they would reach the insteps. Usually, they were
made of silk and the whole dress was embroidered, with broad lace
trimmed at the collar, sleeves and edges.
In the 1920s,
Qipao / Cheongsam became popular throughout China. With the
influence of Western dress styles, the Cheongsam underwent a
change. The cuffs grew narrower and were usually trimmed with thin
lace. The length of the dress was shortened as well. This new
adaptation allowed the beauty of female body to be fully
In the 1930s, wearing a Qipao / Cheongsam became fashion among women in
the whole of China. Various styles existed during this period.
Some were short, some were long, with low, high or even no collars
Starting from the 1940s, Cheongsams became closer-fitting
and more practical. In summer, women wore sleeveless dresses.
Qipaos of this period were seldom adorned with patterns.
Asian clothing Qipao became standard female attire until the 1960s. Following
Western fashion, the tailors raised the hem, even to above the
knee, so that the "long" was long no longer. In the
West, during the sexual revolution of the 1960s the style was
deemed something oppressive, like the Victorian bodice.
Western popular culture, the qipao became synonymous with the 1960
movie character Suzie Wong and the sexual objectification of
Today, with its variety of styles, the
sexy Chinese style dress Qipao / Cheongsam shows its charm
at many markets. More and more women in China appreciate its
beauty. For instance, when wives of China's diplomats attend
important social gatherings, the Qipao is their first choice
among dresses. Also a lot of Chinese brides choose a Qipao as
their famous Chinese wedding dress. In fact, quite a number of influential people have
suggested that Qipao / Cheongsam should become the national dress for
women in China. This shows that the Cheongsam remains a vibrant
part of Chinese culture.
a Qipao nowadays has turned into something of a vogue, both at
home and abroad. Due to its elegance and classical looks the Qipao
becomes a source of inspiration for fashion designers.
World-renowned brands like CD, Versace, and Ralph Lauren have all
cited some Qipao elements in their designs. Many foreign women are
eager to get themselves a Qipao should they visit China.
Chinese fashion Qipao is
no longer a garment particular to Chinese women, but is adding to
the vocabulary of beauty for women the world over.