Elegant, sexy and timeless, the cheongsam or qipao is the eastern world’s answer to the LBD. With its figure-hugging silhouette designed to show off every curve, we totally understand why the dress that used to only be worn for more formal occasions like weddings or the lunar new year has made its way into everyday looks – even to the office.
Inherently, though it is designed to flatter the female body (think: the nipped in waist), the cheongsam can be a tricky one to pull off because you could easily go from fab to flab if you don’t pick a design that suits your unique body type. Should you opt for a sleeveless or cap-sleeved design? Low neck or high neck? Slit or no slit?
Tip 1: Be prepared when you go for your fitting/shopping
LQY: Wear seamless underwear; it’s amazing how many women wear overly tight elastic that will show under any form fitting dress, much less a cheongsam. Also, it will be helpful if you arrive wearing exactly the height of heels you plan on wearing your cheongsam with, so it’s easier for everyone to gauge how long or short your dress will be.
PW: As there are many different types of cheongsams available, we always recommend doing some research online on the different styles, silhouettes or fabric you would prefer before visiting a tailor or making your purchase. Besides the traditional classic silhouette, there are modern ‘hybrid’ styles that are gaining popularity too, with silhouettes like mermaid cuts with a long dramatic train or sexier necklines like a halter. It’ll be much easier for you to communicate your vision to your tailor if you have a rough idea of what you’re looking for.
Tip 2: Pick a collar height that flatters your neck
PW: If you feel like you have a shorter neck, pick a design with a lower collar as it will create an illusion of a longer neck.
LQY: The traditional collar tends to be higher and tight fitting, but these days, you can easily find designs that feature a shorter collar with added ‘V’ open front for extra comfort. This is ideal for women with shorter and broader necks.
Tip 3: When it comes to fabrics, pick one that will keep you comfortable
LQY: Natural fibres are best for breathability in our climate. You’ll want to look toward fabrics which hang well on their own and do not require heavy lining as these tend to trap heat in an insulation air gap.
Tip 4: Custom making a cheongsam is the way to go if you don’t feel like your body shape suits one
LQY: Your tailor can easily alter any cheongsam to fit your individual waist and hip ratio. Also, you can ask him or her to convert the skirt into a flattering yet streamlined pencil or slight A-line cut.
PW: Ask for a built-in corset as it can be easily incorporated when constructing a cheongsam. In addition, lace appliqué can be placed strategically on the bodice down to the hem to create an elongated look for a slimming effect too.
Tip 5: Think about your slit placement
PW: There are a few ways to place a slit (or even more slits than usual) to your cheongsam. A simple back slit is usually very popular amongst the more mature audience, while double slits on either side makes for a sexier look. This is because the front and back panels of the dress can be tapered to create the illusion of fuller hips and an hourglass figure.
Lastly, a front slit on the thigh can always give the traditional cheongsam a sexy appeal.
Tip 6: Hand wash or dry clean your cheongsam
LQY: Washing your cheongsam by hand is always the most sustainable and gentle choice for any fabric, but for more durable Japanese cotton or denim pieces, you can get away with laundering it in the washing machine if you place it within a laundry bag and wash on a gentle cycle.
PW: Always send your cheongsam to a professional cleaner after wearing.