Recently, Zhou Xun's Qipao (旗袍, cheongsam) dress look in the movie "Hidden Blade" brought this traditional costume back into the spotlight.
If it is said that every era has representative clothing, then, the Republic of China women's closet must not be missing one cheongsam.
01 Fashionable clothing in the Republic of China period
Qipao dress can be said to be the most representative clothing in the Republic of China. For social needs, the ladies also often update cheongsam style.
Song Meiling often wore cheongsam, when she went to the United States to seek support for the war, especially when she spoke in the U.S. Congress, the image of a black satin cheongsam stunned the crowd, while boarding the major U.S. magazines.
The popularity of the cheongsam owes much to the successful incorporation of practical Western elements without losing traditional Chinese features. Although designated as one of the Chinese dresses, the Qipao dress is actually a Western-style wear under a Chinese-style appearance.
On the outside, the Qipao dress still adheres to the traditional Chinese elements such as silhouette, Pankou, and vertical collar, and the custom of "right overlapping" is also retained, which constitutes the unique aesthetic form of the Qipao dress.
Pankou and patterns on the cheongsam also carry traditional Chinese culture, at the same time, the side slits are the subtle beauty that China is all about. In terms of dress structure, the cheongsam introduces a western three-dimensional design.
Traditional Chinese clothing attaches importance to two-dimensional structure, that is, the static posture of the human body when standing as the design standard. That's why Chinese traditional clothing does not emphasize style but fine craftsmanship, with large gaps between body and clothes appearing loose. Therefore, most Hanfu have wide robes, large sleeves, and skirts, and hang downwards.
Western-style clothing, on the other hand, focuses on the perfect combination with the human body, thus often highlighting the body's curves and three-dimensional effects through complex structures.
The cheongsam of the 1920s and 1930s was significantly influenced by Western culture, from the shape becoming more fitted, the cuffs contracting, the skirt lifting upward to accentuate the body's curves, and the emergence of simple abstract geometric style patterns.
The combination of Chinese and Western styles made the cheongsam both new in spirit and not unacceptable to conservatives, and the audience was extremely wide.
In addition, the explosion of cheongsam in the 1920s could not be separated from the influence of calendar poster advertising. The calendar posters used modern beauty to advertise products, and cheongsam was the main costume in the posters, which represented the fashion trend and foreign lifestyle of the era.
02 Real traditional Qipao
Modern cheongsam tends to highlight the extreme requirements for body shape, but traditional Qipao was the dress of all women back then, and was as popular as the jeans we wear today, with minimal requirements for age, identity, and body shape.
The cheongsam of the early Republican period was vest-like. It was long to the back of the foot, with a short jacket with big sleeves, and the lower half of the body was in the "A" shape, and worn with pants inside. The clothes and sleeves are made from the same fabric, and the silhouette is wide and straight.
Under the influence of the New Culture Movement and the May Fourth Movement, women began to rebel against dress style constraints, and after realizing that a high collar would interfere with neck movement, the collar of the cheongsam was then lowered by about half to a small stand-up collar. At the same time, women tried to break free from the role of housewife.
Around 1926, the vest and short jacket were combined into one, forming the new Shanghai cheongsam. From the mid-1920s to the 1930s, the cheongsam did not overemphasize the waistline, and the hemline was gradually raised to the knee. The cheongsam was no longer just an ideological symbol of freedom and equal rights, but a fashion for women to decorate to please themselves.
It can be said that the cheongsam was not only an ordinary garment, but also reflected the awakening of women's consciousness and the pursuit of equality in that era. During the Republican period, the cheongsam style was updated rapidly, and the hem length varied.
But unlike some cheongsams now, which are overly sexy, the traditional Qipao dress, even if the waist is tightened, also emphasizes slenderness and practicality, and is on the straight side, the state of women wearing it is relaxed.
In modern times, the cheongsam has become more of a dress, worn on formal occasions or as a prop costume in film and drama, with much more decoration than practicality. Now the popular new Chinese style, it is the cheongsam elements into the design, the complete sense of the cheongsam in the daily less and less seen.
The modern cheongsam has more than enough styles to allow us to avoid the shortcomings according to our body shape, and with the popularity of the new Chinese style, the improved cheongsam is also refurbished in style, and there is also a revival of the ancient cheongsam, which is more inclusive of body shape and occasion. The era of the cheongsam has passed, but the cheongsam has become a unique design element that continues to remain in our lives, giving us a constant source of inspiration.