I was in Kuala Lumpur during the first week of January; my second trip to Malaysia. Like last time, the shopping malls and streets are adorned with bright red and gold decorations in preparation for Chinese New Year which (depending on the lunar calendar) occurs sometime from mid-January to mid-February. And like last time, some of my friends and cousins were buying new cheongsams to wear for the auspicious day. This year, I decided to join in too.
What is a cheongsam? A cheongsam (Cantonese pronunciation of 长衫), also known as a qipao (Mandarin pronunciation of 旗袍) is a Chinese dress that is characterised by its fitted bodice and skirt and Mandarin collar. They more traditionally have a long skirt with a slit along the side for movement, but can also have a shorter variant (like the one I am wearing) The cheongsam as we know it today had its origins in 1920s Shanghai. With its tight fit, it accentuates the female form whilst maintaining an elegant modesty with its high collar and long skirt.
They often have a cross-over element (see the pearl buttons below?), but modern cheongsams only have the buttons sewn on as a false placket, with a zip on the back or the side for ease of access (mine is on the back)
I must have tried on about three dozen cheongsams before finding one I liked. I tried to find a print that would be a bit more modern and not too oriental so that I could wear it home in Australia without feeling like a caricature. The plus side with this one is that the white background means I can go from day-to-night, from a garden party to a nice dinner.
With my new short hair, and the historical connotations of the cheongsam, I decided to style this photoshoot as a 1920s-1930s Shanghainese lady, with a curled bob, winged eyeliner and a bold red lip. This is my first pictorial with full make-up (normally I do them bareface, with only coloured lipstick if needed).
And of course, it would not be complete without a fan. This one is sandalwood fan.
The dry, yellow summer grass, non-varnished outdoor furniture and the old Hill’s Hoist suited the vintage feel we were trying to capture. Unfortunately, my photographer/sister-in-law and I encountered some ants during the photoshoot, which promptly needed brushing off.
I hope you enjoyed this brief dabble into some Asian traditional dress; this will hopefully just be the start of many more!