The Origin and Development of Cheongsam in China

The Origin and Development of Cheongsam in China

Since the end of the Qing Dynasty, the past hundred years have witness the development of cheongsam. During this hundred years, cheongsam has undergone many changes.

  1. Origin of cheongsam


Cheongsam is one of the robes, which was developed from the deep clothes of the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period (2,700 years ago). The so-called deep clothes are those that are connected with garment and skirt, which were worn by ancient Chinese.



In the Qing Dynasty, women mainly wore robes, especially Manchu women, whose gowns had straight lines and extended clothes to ankles, with complex decoration. The Manchu women’s dresses, the traditional dress of the Manchu nationality, were large and skin-unexposed. The Manchu people were also called banners, thus the cheongsam was born and institutionalized in Mukden, becoming one of the representatives of Chinese costume culture. Mukden featured the cheongsam culture which was accumulated gradually.



The elegant and gorgeous Manchu cheongsam is one of the most distinctive clothes in China, and it is also a kind of “formal dress” that can best show the beauty of oriental women.


In the early period of the Republic of China, women’s clothes generally remained the connection of garment and skirt, similar to those of the Qing Dynasty.



  1. Development of cheongsam


In the 1920s:


The 1920s was a period in which the Chinese style cheongsam was gradually formed. Cheongsam became popular, and its cuffs gradually narrowed. Moreover, its edging was not as wide as it used to be.



In 1929, the government of the Republic of China defined cheongsam (and Chinese dress) as a national dress. At that time, there were two kinds of women’s dresses. One is a blue coat with a black skirt, and the other is a cheongsam. Most of the female students in the school were wearing a top with large placket and round bottom placket, an elbow-length sleeve, and a silk skirt.


In the 1930s:


The 1930s was the golden age of cheongsam. The Shanghai style cheongsam was more westernized in both tailoring and design. Due to the treatment of the chest and waist darts, the cheongsam was longer, tight and d high slits, which was more fit for the exquisite, open and lively oriental women.



In the 1940s:


In the 1940s, the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression disrupted people’s pursuit of clothing. The cheongsam designed by dressmakers was economical and practical, with its length shorten to the middle of the calf, and to the knee when high. In the summer, dressmakers lower cheongsam’s collars, but didn’t design the sleeves of the cheongsam. Cheongsam in the 1940s was simple, plain and apt.



After the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, cheongsam entered its freezing period. However, cheongsam was still favored overseas. Many high-ranking figures and socialites who went abroad considered cheongsam as their favorite costume, and many Chinese people wore cheongsam, which was the most representative of the nation, to participate in many important festivals.


In the 1980s:


Cheongsam was back in the eyes of people in the form of film and television works, fashion shows and beauty pageants. The basic characteristics and elements of the cheongsam are slowly determined, and its style and details have been updated and become increasingly exquisite.

Since the Republic of China, cheongsam culture has stimulated new vitality. Cheongsam is still a woman’s exclusive product. Its style tends to be simple and elegant in tone, with emphasis on the natural beauty of women. There are many masters in tailoring and making cheongsam in Shenyang. The fine and flat stitches were barely visible. The new and original button, exquisite piping and proper folding on the cheongsam are admirable.


In 1984, cheongsam was designated by the State Council as the formal dress for Chinese female diplomats.


Since the Beijing Asian games in 1990, cheongsam has been chosen as the ceremonial dress for the Olympics, international conferences and expositions held in mainland China.


On May 23, 2011, the handicraft techniques of cheongsam became one of the third batch of national intangible cultural heritage approved by the State Council.


In November 2014, at the 22nd APEC meeting held in Beijing, the Chinese government chose cheongsam as the dress for the wives of the leaders of the participating countries.


Nowadays, cheongsam is a unique symbol of the Chinese nation on the international stage.

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