Nowadays, many brides consider wearing a qipao as their Chinese wedding dress for their tea ceremony or wedding.
The qipao originated in China during the Manchu Rule, but the original dress worn by Manchu women were wide and baggy and featured a high neck collar with a straight skirt. Later during the 1920s in Shanghai, the qipao modernized to become what it looks like today—a form-fitting sheath dress with two high slits on each side. The popularity of the qipao continued to grow and it was officially made the national dress of the Republic of China in 1929.
It’s a dress rich with heritage and tradition—and if you are considering wearing one to celebrate your Chinese culture on your big day, here are some tips to consider when choosing the right qipao for your wedding.
1: Check the collar height of your qipao
The most iconic part of a qipao is the mandarin collar. Typically, qipao collar heights range from 3cm to 5cm for comfort and tradition. If you’re going for a vintage 1920s Shanghai qipao look, you can go higher like 5.5-6cm. However, be mindful of the height of the collar since it can also make your neck look shorter. A higher collar is also more uncomfortable to wear, so we recommend wearing a more casual qipao for a day or two to understand what collar height you would be comfortable with.
2: Choose a qipao color that complements your skin tone
The typical color for a traditional Chinese wedding dress is red—it symbolizes good luck and fortune for your wedding and future. However, there are different shades of red. And now with the modernization of wedding qipaos, you can even choose other colors like pink, white, purple or even blue or green based on your own style and preference. So when choosing your qipao, remember that you should also consider a color that best matches your skin tone and wedding day colors.
3: Consider a flattering silhouette for your shape
The traditional qipao is a slim, body-hugging sheath dress. It often only looks flattering on a specific body type. But luckily, nowadays, you are not limited to just the traditional sheath style of a qipao. If you have a curvier body, you can show it off with a mermaid qipao dress.
Or if you’re shorter, you can consider a knee-length dress to elongate your legs. If you have bigger hips or are more pear-shaped, you can consider a beautiful A-line qipao dress instead that combines both tradition and comfort into its designs. We love the more modern designs of qipaos because it caters to body shapes and sizes of all types.
Read more about the different silhouettes in our 101 guide here.
4: Decide on a train or no train.
If you want a qipao dress to turn heads on your wedding day, consider adding a train to your dress. Trains are a classic element of wedding dresses and are memorable in pictures. However, they are often heavy and harder to move in. If you decide to add a train to your qipao dress, you should also consider ways to bustle your train or adding a slit to the front so you can move and walk around more easily.
5: Traditional or non-traditional fabric?
Traditional qipao dresses are made of brocade silk—usually heavily embroidered with symbols like phoenix and dragons to represent the bride and groom on their wedding day. While stunning in its intricacy and design, brocade fabric is not as flexible or comfortable as other fabrics. For example, if you like a little stretch in your qipao dresses for that perfect curve-hugging silhouette, consider a soft lacy material like our Emma dress.
Depending on the season of your wedding, you also want to take fabric into consideration for your qipao dress. Getting married in Bali? Opt for something light and breathable like our Celeste or Michelle dress. Or getting married in the winter? Consider a thicker qipao with more coverage like our Jade dress that has an extra layer under the lace.
6: Cap sleeves or sleeveless?
Qipaos traditionally have cap sleeves (which are around 10cm in length). While iconic, these sleeves may not be flattering on everyone. If you have broad shoulders or prefer more flexibility in your arm movements (especially if you want to dance in your qipao), then we recommend opting for a sleeveless qipao instead. East Meets Dress allows you to customize the sleeves of the qipaos so you can create the cut that most flatters your body type.
7: Wear your qipao again for a future event
With a qipao dress this pretty, we know you’ll want to find a way to wear it again. So before you choose your wedding qipao dress, you can consider designs that are more wearable again for a future event. For example, choose a two-piece dress like our Astrid dress that gives you a shorter sheath dress underneath that you can wear again to a cocktail event in the future.
Or opt for a knee-length dress like our Rachel dress that is wearable for a tea ceremony and another party/event. You can also consider taking a floor-length A-line qipao dress like our Adeline and hemming the length so it is transformed into a more casual qipao dress. You’ll get a whole new dress, and be sustainable in the process.
Want to consult with an expert stylist?
Book a virtual appointment with us and see our dresses up close and personal. We'll answer all your qipao dress questions and help you choose the cheongsam of your dreams. Or take our Style Quiz to get our personal cheongsam recommendations based on your preferences.
In the mood for more?
- Check out 30 gorgeous details for a cheongsam for more inspiration.
- Learn about the 5 Chinese elements of a traditional qipao.
- Still not sure what style of qipao (cheongsam) dress to get? Check out our sample dress kit and choose to have 2 of our dresses shipped to you so you can see and feel them in person.