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  • Place of origin:

    Taiwan (made)

  • Date:

    1980s (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Machine embroidered silk satin

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs Gwendolyn Chien

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This red satin Chinese dress is vividly embroidered with butterflies. The dress style is known in Chinese as cheongsam or qipao, and is usually worn on formal occasions. It was given to the museum by Mrs Gwendolyn Chien, the spouse of a Taiwanese diplomat.

Physical description

Woman's dress (known as a qipao in Mandarin or a cheongsam in Cantonese) of bright red silk satin (satin 4) with machine-embroidered butterflies in creamy/gold and decorated with small diamante jewels. The design appears on the front, on the sleeves, on the broad edging around the top closure and with just a few butterflies on the back. It is a full length garment with high slits at the sides, 3/4 length sleeves and a small high collar. It is right side fastening with three loop and knot buttons, press studs and a hidden zip at the side seam. There are seams across the shoulders and a dart at the top of the sleeves to accommodate shoulder pads in the 1980s style. All the edges are trimmed with bias-cut pale grey satin and the garment has a synthetic lining.

Place of Origin

Taiwan (made)


1980s (made)



Materials and Techniques

Machine embroidered silk satin


Length: 124 cm, Length: 50 cm side slits

Object history note

This dress was donated to the museum by Mrs Gwendolyn Chien, an opera singer before she married a Taiwanese diplomat. She and her husband were posted to the UK in the 1990s and she took an interest in the acquisition of Chinese dress in the V&A. She herself always wore a qipao on formal and semi-formal occasions and, although she often purchased the material in Europe ( for example, she liked Liberty wool), she had them tailored in Taiwan. She owned many different kinds and found them suitable for the diplomatic life. She was able to wear sleeveless cotton qipao in hot climates and woolen ones in cooler parts of the world. She explained how the qipao was not unchanging but responded to small fashion notes. The exmaple here could only be from the 1980s with its big shoulders. Mrs Chien was instrumental in helping the museum acquire a qipao from Madame Chiang Kai-shek, see FE.112-1996

Historical significance: This qipao was worn by Mrs Chien, the wife of the Representative of Taiwan to Great Britain, on formal occasions in the 1980s.

Descriptive line

Dress (qipao) of embroidered silk, China, 1980s


Silk (textile)


Machine embroidery

Subjects depicted



Fashion; Women's clothes; Textiles; Embroidery


East Asia Collection

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