If you are going to a formal Chinese social gathering, and you are unsure of what to wear, you should consider getting a qipao. A popular garment for Chinese citizens and tourists, the qipao—also known as cheongsam—is a form-fitting dress with a long history of Chinese culture and tradition
According to Chinese legend, a young fisherwoman, both beautiful and clever, created the qipao for convenience. The qipao, designed with slits on the sides, enabled the young fisherwoman to tuck in the front piece of her dress and catch fish more easily. One night, the young Chinese emperor saw the young fisherwoman in his dreams, and, upon finding her, he made her queen. Manchu women then began dressing like the queen, popularizing the qipao.
The qipao originated from the Manchus living under the Eight Banner System. Beginning in the 17th century, Manchu rulers organized Manchus into political institutions called “banners” (qi), and all the Manchus were known as “banner people” (qiren). The qipao, directly translated as “banner dress,” was the typical clothing for Manchu women at the time. The Qing Dynasty, ruled by the Manchus, was overthrown during the 1911 Revolution, but the qipao remained popular for many years afterward.
Known for its simple and quiet charm, the qipao is a dress with a high neck and closed collar. The dress fits loosely around the chest and tightly around the waist. It is buttoned on the right and has slits rising from the bottom of the dress up to mid-thigh on both sides. The length of the dress may be knee-length or floor-length. Most qipaos are made from silk and decorated with floral designs and embroidery.
Several different types of qipaos exist to flatter women of all shapes and sizes. Qipaos with shorter collars are designed to elongate shorter necks, and qipaos with three-quarter sleeves are designed to hide flesh in the upper arms. Qipao separates are also available for women who prefer two-piece garments. Qipaos are typically crafted to fit specific body measurements, but with the increased availability of ready-to-wear clothing throughout the 20th century, off-the-rack qipaos have become more widespread.
Qipaos are worn not only by the average Chinese person but also by influential people on special occasions: Young girls wear qipaos to celebrate the New Year; brides wear them to their weddings; and movie stars and wives of diplomats have been seen sporting qipaos at social functions. In addition, qipaos have become a source of inspiration for renowned fashion designers. Versace and Ralph Lauren have both cited elements of the qipao in their designs. Thank you for your reading.