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CPC100 - Elegance Never Fades: Qipao and Shanghai


30 June 2021 | By Yu Ying | Copyedited by Xu Shijie

  • Shanghai Qipao Shop

    Photo by SISUers

  • Shanghai Qipao Shop

    Photo by SISUers

  • Shanghai Qipao Shop

    Photo by SISUers

Q

ipao is a one-piece Chinese dress that has its origin in Manchu-ruled China under Qing dynasty back in the 17th century. It is miraculous that the hundred-year-old clothes has been evolving over these years and is still worn today. Qipao, just like Kung fu, has become an iconic image of traditional Chinese culture.

Though originated in Beijing, the Qipao we now talk about in daily life often refers to Shanghai-style Qipao. With a long tradition of selling custom-made Qipao, there are still many hand-made shops scattered around the streets. Following directions collected from the Internet and the map, I set out to visit the “Qipao streets” in Shanghai.

The two streets, Changle Road and South Maoming Road, are perpendicular to each other, thus making a busy crossroad. More than fifteen Qipao shops are situated by the roadside.

One or two delicately decorated shops stand exactly on the crossroad, in which several young and nicely uniformed shop assistants queue up for offering services. But I prefer those smaller shops quietly waiting under shady boulevard. There are no hired assistants, but usually a middle-aged shopkeeper who is also the designer of clothes. She might sit idly on the sofa, drinking a cup of tea and casting friendly smile to passersby. Or she might, wearing a pair of glasses, focus on cutting the fabric with scissors, without noticing customers coming in. Although I didn’t buy anything, I enjoyed chatting with them in such a casual way, listening to their stories with Qipao.

That day I came across a young couple, shopping around several shops, looking for satisfactory Qipao for their wedding ceremony. Qipao has indeed become a kind of classic formal dress, through which people want to show the beauty and elegance under the temperament of Chinese tradition.

As a matter of fact, Qipao has been adapting itself along with the trend. From Qing dynasty to early 20th century, Qipao was a kind of oversize dress which aims at covering women’s body curves. This phenomenon, to a great extent, reflects the repression that women has long suffered. Until during the 1930s, Shanghai, open to various foreign influences due to its geographical location, began to embrace a new-style Qipao which highlights female charm through its skin-tight design and a slit up the side. Nowadays, more types of modified Qipao are fused with modern and popular elements, suitable for casualwear every day. Such changes are in accordance with spirit of Shanghai which can be summed up as keeping up with the time and integrating the past and the present.

 

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Press Contact

SISU News Center, Office of Communications and Public Affairs

Tel : +86 (21) 3537 2378

Email : news@shisu.edu.cn

Address :550 Dalian Road (W), Shanghai 200083, China

Further Reading