Aesthetics of Chinese Qipao(cheongsam)

In my opinion, the Chinese Qipao is not only a traditional dress for women, but also genuinely a piece of art. It is featured by stand collar, right side opening, fitting waist and slip bottom, which can fully set off the beauty of the female shape. It is usually made of excellent materials like silk, silk brocade, satin, satin brocade or velour’s. Nearly all colors can be used. Often the Qipao gets a certain pattern, such as Chinese Dragons, different kinds of flowers, butterflies or other typical Chinese icons (e.g. prosperity, wealth).

Originally, the Qibao is derived from the garment of bannermen manchu in Qing dynasty. There were some modifications made on Qibao in order to make it more suitable and comfortable. In 1930s, Qipao became really popular in China, especially in Shanghai. The reason was that its slimness and fitness had made it as a perfect choice for the slender and exquisite-stature women.

Cheongsam has been experiencing constant changes with the fashions in different ages. While inheriting the characteristics of traditional cheongsam in details, the new-style one is associated with new features and a great deal of modern design elements in color, cutting and match, which are mainly embodied in the change of the bottom (A-shape, asymmetrical type and picture puzzle type, etc.) as well as diversified materials. Other than meeting aesthetic requirements of young women in China, new-style cheongsam is of great vitality with its easy wearing.












Qipao in Daoguan Period (1821-1850)


Cheongsam in Guangxu period (1875-1908)

Cheongsam in 1930 (Chinese actor Zhou Xuan wearing cheongsam in Shanghai)

Appliqued floral embroidered peacock red long wedding cheongsam

New-style Cheongsam

Asymmetric cheongsam



HERSHATTER, Gail. State of the Field: Women in China’s Long Twentieth Century. The Journal of Asian Studies, 2004, vol. 63, no. 4, p. 991-1065. URL: Accessed: 20/06/2013

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3 Comments. Leave new

  • Really cool, we have a similar thing in Vietnamese culture called ao dai, and there is a male counterpart as well for it. It’s common to see them worn during weddings, but I wonder if Vietnamese people still wear them today. I’m guessing that these dresses were made for the higher class during the Qing Dynasty.

  • This is really interesting to me, because while the Qipao aesthetic has remained over the years, it seems like it has evolved significantly as well. Looking at other Cheongsam photos on google, there’s a wide variety of styles, but all are still very obviously the same aesthetic!

  • Nicholas Flood
    January 24, 2016 10:31 pm

    You give a good description of the Qipao aesthetic . I like the images you chose to illustrate the progression of the style.


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