High Mandarin Collar 立領旗袍
Qipao / Cheongsam is an elegant type of Chinese dress. This close－fitting dress, is one-piece Chinese dress with a high neck and the slits on the sides, that have been worn since the Manchu ruled China in the 17th century.
When the Manchu ruled China during the Qing Dynasty, certain social strata emerged. Among them were the Banners (qí), mostly Manchu, who as a group were called Banner People (旗人 pinyin: qí rén). Manchu women typically wore a one-piece dress that retrospectively came to be known as the qípáo (旗袍 or banner gown). The generic term for both the male and the female forms of Manchu dress, essentially similar garments, was chángpáo (長袍). The qipao fitted loosely and hung straight down the body, or flared slightly in an A-line. Under the dynastic laws after 1636, all Han Chinese in the banner system were forced to wear a queue and dress in Manchurian qipao instead of traditional Han Chinese clothing (剃发易服), under penalty of death (along with the July 1645 edict (the "haircutting order") that forced all adult Han Chinese men to shave the front of their heads and comb the remaining hair into a queue, on pain of death). Until 1911, the changpao was required clothing for Chinese men of a certain class, but Han Chinese women continued to wear loose jacket and trousers, with an overskirt for formal occasions. The qipao was a new fashion item for Han Chinese women when they started wearing it around 1925.
Qing Dynasty Qipao 清代旗袍
A woman in the traditional loose fitting baggy qipao worn with an over jacketThe original qipao was wide and loose. It covered most of the woman's body, revealing only the head, hands, and the tips of the toes. The baggy nature of the clothing also served to conceal the figure of the wearer regardless of age. With time, though, the qipao were tailored to become more form fitting and revealing. The modern version, which is now recognized popularly in China as the "standard" qipao, was first developed in Shanghai in the 1920s, partly under the influence of Beijing styles. People eagerly sought a more modernized style of dress and transformed the old qipao to suit their tastes. Slender and form fitting with a high cut, it had great differences from the traditional qipao. However, it was high-class courtesans and celebrities in the city that would make these redesigned tight fitting qipao popular at that time. In Shanghai it was first known as zansae or "long dress" (長衫 - Mandarin Chinese: chángshān, Shanghainese: zansae, Cantonese: chèuhngsàam), and it is this name that survives in English as the "cheongsam".
Soong Sisters 宋慶齡 宋美齡
The modernized version is noted for accentuating the figures of women, and as such was popular as a dress for high society. As Western fashions changed, the basic cheongsam design changed too, introducing high-necked sleeveless dresses, bell-like sleeves, and the black lace frothing at the hem of a ball gown. By the 1940s, cheongsam came in a wide variety of fabrics with an equal variety of accessories.
The 1949 Communist Revolution curtailed the popularity of the cheongsam and other fashions in Shanghai, but the Shanghainese emigrants and refugees brought the fashion to Hong Kong where it has remained popular. Recently there has been a revival of the Shanghainese cheongsam in Shanghai and elsewhere in Mainland China; the Shanghainese style functions now mostly as a stylish party dress.
Qipao in the 30s 30年代旗袍
What Does a Qipao Look Like?
The original qipao was wide and baggy. The one-piece dress featured a high neck and straight skirt. It covered all of a woman’s body except for her head, hands, and toes. The qipao was traditionally made of silk and featured intricate embroidery.
The qipao worn today are modeled after ones made in Shanghai in the 1920s. The modern qipao is a one-piece, formfitting, floor length dress that has a high slit on one or both sides. Modern variations may have bell sleeves or be sleeveless and are made out of a variety of fabrics.
When Is a Qipao Worn?
In the 17th century, the qipao was worn nearly every day. Nowadays, the qipao is worn during formal occasions like weddings, parties, and beauty pageants. The qipao is also used as a uniform at restaurants, hotels, and on airplanes in Asia.
Who Came Up with the Design of the Qipao?
During Manchu rule, Nurhachi (努爾哈赤, Nǔ'ěrhāchì), a chieftan, established the Banner System, a structure for organizing all Manchu families into administrative divisions. The traditional dress that Manchu women wore became known as the qipao (旗袍, banner gown).
After 1636, all Han Chinese men in the banner system had to wear the male version of the qipao, chángpáo (長袍).
In the 1920s in Shanghai, the dress was modernized and became popular among celebrities and the upper class. The dress became less popular when Communist rule began in 1949. The Shanghainese took the dress to Hong Kong where it remained popular in the 1950s with working women who often paired it with a jacket.
Beauty of South Yanzi River (江南之美）