Woman's Dress thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
China, Room 44, The T.T. Tsui Gallery

Woman's Dress

ca. 1930 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The modern qipao or cheongsam is seen as the ubiquitous Chinese woman’s dress. Coming into vogue as the new Chinese republic was founded in 1911, the qipao was seen as the woman’s dress of ‘new’ China. Although it retained the basic form of the dress of the ‘Banner people’, the Manchus (who were not ethnic Chinese), changes in details in ornamentation and tailoring marked the ‘overthrowing’ of the feudal past.

This dress is an interesting piece of modern technology: the velvet and ‘crepe’ are synthetic fabrics (as opposed to organic textiles such as silk, which these fabrics are traditionally made with), and machine woven (as opposed to loom weaving). There is also a lace detail that is in the very fashionable art deco style. This dress thus is an interesting combination of a traditional Chinese form with modern Western influences.

The qipao was worn mainly by women in urban centres, generally until the socialist People’s Republic of China was established in 1949. Shanghai was well known for its congregation of skilled tailors and dressmakers who incorporated features of Western tailoring (for e.g. darts and laces) into the construction of the qipao. After 1949, for fear of reprisals for ‘being bourgeois’ and being associated with capitalism, many of these tailors fled to Hong Kong, where the tradition of qipao making continued for many years.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Synthetic velvet with printed and burn-out (devoré) patterns
Brief Description
White velvet qipao printed with red floral motifs, made by Sun Sun Company 新新公司 (operated from 1926-51 in Shanghai), Shanghai, China, about 1930
Physical Description
Woman's dress, known as 'qipao' or 'cheongsam' in Chinese.



Full length garment. Right side fastening with ten loop and knot buttons fashioned in a spiral shape ( four at the neck). High stiff stand-up collar. Short sleeves ( above the elbow). Slit at sides. Cream silk twill lining with applied lace. White synthetic cut velvet on a crepe ground with printed orange-red and pink floral motifs. Some of the red dye has run, possibly due to a previous clean.



The dress is an interesting piece of modern technology. The velvet and crepe are synthetic fabrics ( as opposed to organic textiles such as silk) and machine woven. There is also a lace detail that is iun the very fashionable art deco style. This dress thus is an interesting combination of a traditional Chinese form with modern Western influences.
Dimensions
  • Length: 122cm
Style
Credit line
Given by the Lee Family
Object history
This qipao can be firmly dated to the 1930s, with the provenance provided by the donors. The dress was most likely to have been worn by Mrs Ruth Lee’s mother-in-law (Mdm Yo Shu Pan) as her ‘going away’ dress (i.e. honeymoon outfit; she was married to the diplomat Mr Yone Ming Lee in Chekian in 1932, whom she met while working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Nanking). Mdm Yo brought the dress with her to England when her husband was made First Secretary to the Chinese Embassy in 1947.
Summary
The modern qipao or cheongsam is seen as the ubiquitous Chinese woman’s dress. Coming into vogue as the new Chinese republic was founded in 1911, the qipao was seen as the woman’s dress of ‘new’ China. Although it retained the basic form of the dress of the ‘Banner people’, the Manchus (who were not ethnic Chinese), changes in details in ornamentation and tailoring marked the ‘overthrowing’ of the feudal past.



This dress is an interesting piece of modern technology: the velvet and ‘crepe’ are synthetic fabrics (as opposed to organic textiles such as silk, which these fabrics are traditionally made with), and machine woven (as opposed to loom weaving). There is also a lace detail that is in the very fashionable art deco style. This dress thus is an interesting combination of a traditional Chinese form with modern Western influences.



The qipao was worn mainly by women in urban centres, generally until the socialist People’s Republic of China was established in 1949. Shanghai was well known for its congregation of skilled tailors and dressmakers who incorporated features of Western tailoring (for e.g. darts and laces) into the construction of the qipao. After 1949, for fear of reprisals for ‘being bourgeois’ and being associated with capitalism, many of these tailors fled to Hong Kong, where the tradition of qipao making continued for many years.
Collection
Accession Number
FE.8-2009

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record createdDecember 29, 2009
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