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Cultural Heritage / Trip Ideas

How the modern cheongsam came to be

By Zhiyu Wang

November 18

Cheongsam, also called Qipao, is embroidered silk dress that was developed during the Qing dynasty.

Cheongsam, also called Qipao, is embroidered silk dress that was developed during the Qing dynasty.

The first Cheongsam Fashion Show in Jiangsu Province [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn]
The first Cheongsam Fashion Show in Jiangsu Province [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn]
Slender, high-cut and form fitting, the modern version emerged in 1920s in Shanghai. Many famous actresses and celebrities at the time wore cheongsams because they fit well, were revealing, and accentuated the wearer’s figure. Song Mei-ling, the First Lady during the Republic of China era, always wore cheongsams on diplomatic occasions.

Contestants in a tourism industry competition in 2010 [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn]
Contestants in a tourism industry competition in 2010 [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn]
The People’s Republic of China made cheongsams the formal attire of female diplomats in 1984, and today the outfit is worn on many occasions including wedding ceremonies. Cheongsams are also gaining popularity around the world. They are commonly seen in beauty contests and fashion shows outside of China.

Brides wearing red cheongsams during a communal wedding ceremony [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn]
Brides wearing red cheongsams during a communal wedding ceremony [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn]
Shanghai has a number of time-honored cheongsam-makers like Jinzhiyuye and Hanyi. There you can pick up a great souvenir for people back home.

Prices range from 600 to 2000 yuan and many shops also provide online services.

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