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Chinese traditional clothing cheongsam

As one of the important symbols of traditional Chinese culture, qipao not only carries the traces of history, but also tells the stories of the times.

Qipao refers to the robe worn by the Manchu people, which evolved from the attire of the Manchu people. According to the interpretation of “Cihai”, qipao is a type of clothing worn by Manchu women in the Qing Dynasty. The hem is not slit, the sleeves are eight inches to one foot, and the edges are embroidered with colorful green. After the Xinhai Revolution, Han Chinese women also widely adopted it. The general style of qipao nowadays is a straight neckline, with a wide open front on the right, a tight waist, and the length of the garment reaching below the knee or ankle bones, with slits on both sides, and short or long sleeves.

Chinese traditional clothing cheongsam

The qipao evolved from the Manchu qipao in the Qing Dynasty and has undergone a hundred years of evolution and development. It is no longer just a change in clothing form, but also a cultural development and maturity.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Western style clothing and advanced production technology began to be introduced to China, becoming the driving force for the evolution of qipao into a new style that combines Chinese and Western styles.

In the early 20th century, people’s lifestyles and clothing concepts were in a period of change, and the number of people wearing qipao greatly decreased. Qipao was neglected among the people, and most of them retreated to Manchu aristocratic families. At this time, the qipao had quietly undergone changes. Although the overall outline still inherited the wide body shape of the late Qing Dynasty and the lines were also very straight, it was influenced by the social atmosphere of advocating nature at that time. The qipao was simplified, with the sleeves tightened and shortened, revealing the wrist, and the length of the body shortened to the ankle. The color tone has also become elegant, with bold and simplified decorations such as inlay and embroidery reduced. The overall style tends to be simple and elegant, laying the foundation for the birth of new cheongsam in the future.

In the mid-20th century, a new style of qipao emerged. In 1926, Shanghai women who had always been at the forefront of fashion trends wore an improved vest qipao. The vest and short jacket were integrated into a style with sleeves, eliminating the overlapping part of the upper body. The body was loose and the lines were straight, with the hem extending to the ankle or calf. The sleeves were made of inverted large sleeves, and the collar, collar, hem, and other parts were decorated with inlaid rolls, becoming the prototype of the new qipao. The qipao begins to have a lower waistline, with slightly protruding curves on the chest, waist, and hips. Although it still has inverted sleeves, the cuffs become smaller and the decoration tends to be more concise. The hem of the qipao gradually becomes shorter, with the hem raised to the knees, revealing the muscular and fair calves. After the appearance of the vest qipao, it quickly became popular throughout the country.

The 1930s and 1940s were the heyday of qipao development and the golden age of modern Chinese women’s fashion revolution. During this period, the new style qipao underwent its final transformation and matured, laying the foundation for its supreme position in the history of Chinese women’s clothing. The improved qipao features an inch collar, slanted collar, and pipa buckle, delicately outlining the curves of Eastern women and boldly revealing their jade arms and calves. At that time, singers Zhou Xuan, film stars Hu Die and Ruan Lingyu, female writer Zhang Ailing, talented woman Lin Huiyin, and others were all enthusiasts of qipao. The qipao photos they left behind showed elegance and delicacy in a subtle way. It is said that Eileen Chang has loved cheongsam from her youth to her later years. Every time she receives royalties and scholarships, the first thing she does is customize a beautiful cheongsam for herself. In 1943, when Zhang Ailing entered the literary world, she was wearing a silk floral qipao with elegant colors. In that famous photo, she was wearing a dark green printed qipao with a high collar and wide sleeves, proudly lifting her chin. In 1995, Eileen Chang also wore a reddish cheongsam and walked her life quietly and elegantly. Zhang Ailing’s works also frequently mention qipao, depicting the ups and downs of life experienced by women wearing different qipaos in their respective stories.

Chinese traditional clothing cheongsam
In the 1940s, the styles of qipao continued to change. The hem and sleeves of the qipao are significantly shortened, reaching the middle of the calf or even the knee; The slit gradually rises, the collar becomes low and even completely removed, and the sleeves change from loose large sleeves to slender ones, then back to short sleeves and sleeveless ones. At that time, Zhuzhi Ci from Shanghai praised it as follows: “Chunjiang women feel civilized, and their attire is inexplicably changed. High soled leather shoes and long socks, revealing the chest and buttocks as affection.” At this time, cheongsam mostly used striped and printed fabrics, and the decoration advocated simplicity and elegance, eliminating the tedious inlay and rolling decoration, and using buttons instead of buttons. In other clothing combinations, qipao still combines Chinese and Western styles, with a Western style coat and accessories such as watches and rings.

Practicality and simplicity were the characteristics of the qipao style in the 1950s. In the early days of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the qipao style did not change much and tended to be more aesthetically pleasing and elegant as a whole. The form of the qipao has been simplified, gradually forming a fixed pattern: a standing collar, a long waist, and low slits; Rarely use decorative techniques such as embroidery and rolling; Replacing intricate decorations with fabric patterns; The use of color is simple, and the color tone is elegant and harmonious.

By the late 1950s, qipao gradually replaced Zhongshan attire and people’s attire.

In the 1960s, cheongsam, together with accessories, basically disappeared in Chinese Mainland.

After more than 20 years of silence, it was not until the early 1980s that qipao reappeared in people’s sight. Qipao has taken on a new look and become a formal dress worn by Chinese women in formal occasions. Some female diplomats and literary workers have hired dedicated personnel to customize cheongsam to showcase the charm of traditional Chinese clothing. As qipao appears in movies and dramas, it becomes a clothing prop that reflects the life of a specific era; In industries such as tea houses, hotels, restaurants, and shopping malls, cheongsam is used as a uniform for female waiters, with bright colors and high slits. It is mostly made of synthetic silk fabric, and the workmanship is slightly rough.

In the 1980s and 1990s, women had an ideal image of being tall, slender, with flat shoulders and narrow hips. The qipao, which best sets off the figure and temperament of Eastern women, is increasingly favored by modern women. On the basis of classic styles such as standing collar, waist up, open front, and slit, Qipao has innovated in collar, hem, collar, and body, resulting in ultra short Qipao, traditional Chinese painting Qipao, lace Qipao, etc. Some designers have combined cheongsam with European formal attire, resulting in internationally distinctive fashion cheongsam, such as cheongsam with lower hem and pleated waist.

Chinese traditional clothing cheongsam
In the mid-1990s, a Chinese style swept across the world fashion stage, and the auspicious patterns and characters of Chinese dragons and phoenixes were seen as fresh design elements by Westerners. The curved hem, buttons, and standing collar on cheongsam have all been applied by Western fashion designers in fashion design.

In the 21st century, the design styles and functions of cheongsam are more diversified and have entered our lives. The new Chinese cheongsam has frequently appeared in our vision with the diplomacy of the wives of national leaders and ambassadors. Today, the beauty of the oriental cheongsam is being displayed in the national dress, national style and China-Chic. Wedding cheongsam, new Chinese style business cheongsam, Zen tea traditional cheongsam, fashionable and improved cheongsam, T-stage cheongsam and other more diverse cheongsams have entered our daily lives.

Chinese traditional clothing cheongsam
Qipao has undergone a hundred years of evolution, and with the changes in people’s lifestyles and aesthetic tastes, it has evolved into a variety of colorful styles that are overwhelming. Qipao can be said to be one of the representative symbol cultures of Chinese culture, with elegant curves, exquisite embroidery, dignified and noble standing collars, and graceful and winding buckles all becoming the soul elements of design.

Nowadays, cheongsam has become popular worldwide, representing the classical charm of Chinese women. The collision of classical cheongsam and modern fashion has reignited the beauty of Eastern fashion and allowed the world to experience the unique Eastern fashion culture.

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