What Is Qipao?

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The Qipao, also known as the Cheongsam, is a captivating and iconic Chinese dress with a rich history. In this article, we will delve into the origins, evolution, and modern interpretation of this beautiful attire. From its intricate design to styling tips, we will cover everything you need to know about it.

The Qipao, often referred to as the Cheongsam, draws inspiration from the qizhuang, the traditional clothing of the Manchu people. It emerged in the 1920s and has since evolved in design, becoming a symbol of grace and sophistication in Chinese fashion.

When to Wear a Cheongsam?

While the Qipao was an everyday attire during the Qing Dynasty, it is not typically worn as such today. Instead, it holds special significance for formal occasions, celebrations, and specific events, including:


The Qipao is a popular choice for Chinese wedding dresses, even in Western weddings when the bride has Chinese heritage. It’s also considered appropriate attire for wedding guests.

School Uniforms

Some primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong, particularly older Christian and Catholic institutions, adopt the Qipao as their official school uniform.

Work Attire

In many restaurants, hotels, and airlines in mainland China, Taiwan, and regions influenced by Chinese culture like Singapore, the Chinese Cheongsam or modern Qipao serves as a uniform for employees.

Chinese New Year and Festivals

It is a favored garment for celebrating Chinese New Year and other traditional Chinese festivals.

International Fashion

Renowned fashion designers, both Western and Chinese, have incorporated the Qipao into their collections. Hollywood movies have also featured this iconic dress, with actresses like Anna Wang, Maggie Cheung, Michelle Yeoh, Anne Hathaway, Elizabeth Taylor, and Nicole Kidman donning it.


Where to Buy Qipao?

Now that you’re captivated by the charm of the Qipao, it’s time to find the perfect one for yourself.

Local Boutiques and Tailors: For a unique and personalized Qipao, consider visiting local boutiques or tailors specializing in traditional Chinese attire. They can create a bespoke Qipao tailored to your preferences.

Online Retailers: In the digital age, shopping for this outfit has never been easier. There are numerous online retailers that offer a wide variety of Qipaos, allowing you to browse and choose the style and color that suits you best.

Vintage and Antique Shops: If you’re a fan of timeless fashion, explore vintage and antique shops. You may stumble upon a genuine, vintage Qipao with a rich history and unique character.

How to Wear a Modern Qipao?

Now that we’ve explored the history and essence of the Cheongsam, let’s delve into some practical tips on how to wear a modern Qipao with elegance and confidence.

Neckline Matters

The collar of a Qipao plays a pivotal role in defining your look. Thinner collars can elongate your neck, while taller collars can create a more compact appearance. Typically, Qipaos has a 6 cm high collar, but shorter versions of 3 cm or less are also available.

Accessorize for Impact

To make a bold statement, consider accessorizing your Qipao outfit with a feminist bag. It not only adds a trendy touch but also showcases your girl-power spirit.

Embrace Sleeveless Styles

If you want to accentuate your arms and create a leaner look, opt for a sleeveless Qipao. This style choice can make your arms appear longer and more graceful.

Choose the Right Fabric

The choice of fabric is crucial for a comfortable and stylish Qipao. Opt for materials like silk, artificial silk, cotton, or polyester that conform well to your body without forming wrinkles.

Flare for Comfort

For those with wider hips or a preference for a more relaxed fit, Qipaos are available in a skater dress version. This style features a flared skirt, offering both comfort and elegance.


The Qipao, also known as the Cheongsam, is a remarkable attire that encapsulates the essence of Chinese culture and fashion. From its historical significance to its modern adaptability, the Cheongsam continues to captivate fashion enthusiasts worldwide. Embracing this iconic dress is not just about wearing clothing; it’s about celebrating tradition, empowerment, and timeless elegance.