You know you want to wear a modern qipao for your wedding or tea ceremony, but what actually makes a dress a qipao (cheongsam)? These 5 key parts of a qipao will hopefully inspire you to create something new that honors your heritage while also staying true to your style.
Don’t be afraid to pick and choose which elements you want in your own dress! That’s the fun of being Asian-American. :)
1. Material of the qipao:
Qipaos can be made of many different materials, but the traditional ones are typically made of silk fabric decorated with embroidery on top. Often, brides will select embroidery that features a phoenix and/or dragon for their wedding qipao. In Chinese culture, the dragon and phoenix together symbolizes good luck and a harmonious marriage.
2. Color of the qipao:
There is no one color associated with qipaos, but for Chinese weddings, red is the way to go.
Red in Chinese culture symbolizes everything you could ever want - good luck, happiness, and joy. That’s why the envelopes you get for Chinese New Year is also red. Brides, therefore, also typically choose red for their Chinese wedding dress for good fortune.
One great way to add some additional color to your modern qipao is to use a different color for the trimming around the collar, sleeves and pankou knots. Here is an example of a red qipao with gold trim.
You can also incorporate a different color accent into your fabric or floral patterns. Gold, white, blue, purple, and pink are all popular secondary qipao colors.
3. Mandarin collar:
The most iconic part of any qipao. The mandarin collar was popularized after the Manchurians overthrew China’s current ruling dynasty to form the Qing Dynasty in the 17th century. The collar was one of the traditional features on the Manchu gowns.
It is an unfolded, upright collar that goes around the neck and typically is two to five centimeters in height. For comfort, most are around 3-4cm.
4. Pankou Knots:
Pankou is the Chinese name for the traditional knotted buttons used on qipaos. They are also often called frog fasteners. Traditionally, they come in various animal and floral designs and are made of silk or satin wrapped around a stiffening material such as copper to help hold its shape.
With pankou knots, you can go as ornate as you want!
The top front part of a qipao traditionally includes a diagonally shaped chest area, enclosed by a series of pankous.
The diagonal typically starts from the base of the collar in the center to just underneath the right armpit. There are many variations to this front however; some are straight diagonals, others are double-sided diagonals, and some even go all the way down to the waist.
What elements will you be including in your Chinese wedding dress?
Still trying to decide what is the right qipao style for your wedding? Take a look at our wedding cheongsam Style Guide here.