Cheongsam VS Qipao

The word qipao and cheongsam are used interchangeably today. However, the two separate terms symbolise the difference in origins. Cheongsam is in Cantonese and it means “long gown” when translated. As for qipao (旗袍), it is in Mandarin and it means banner robe. So you shuld know that the clothing called “Cheongsam” by Westerners can actually be divided into two categories, one called “cheongsam” in Chinese it means “long shirt”, another is called “Qipao”. They have both similarities and differences. The same is: all for the right obeisance, standing collar, plate buckle or snap buttons, long to the knee or below the knee or even to the ground, there are single, folder and folder cotton (folder wool, folder velvet) several kinds.

The cheongsam, also known as the long coat and Chinese long robe, was made by the Han Chinese during the Qing Dynasty on the basis of the cheongsam and followed the Qing Dynasty clothing system. No horseshoe sleeves, stand-up collar, left and right open train are the characteristics of the cheongsam. It is a traditional costume worn by men, while Qipao is a traditional costume worn by women. Before the 1970s, the Cantonese region speaks of cheongsam, usually referring to Chinese style robes, both men’s and women’s clothing can be called a cheongsam.

Later, the Cantonese word “cheongsam” was even included in the Oxford English Dictionary, referring specifically to women’s long shirts- Qipao. “Qipao” is a term commonly used in Hong Kong after the 1970s to refer to the women’s robes that were popular in Shanghai after the 1920s.

Why cheongsam called qipao?

The cheongsam(long robe) was originally a garment worn by male intellectuals, but why did it evolve into the qipao, the dress of Chinese women today? It started with the trend of women’s fashion in the late Qing Dynasty. Under the influence of western thinking, many women pursued the idea of gender equality and female liberation in the late Qing Dynasty, and began to follow the example of men to wear men’s clothing.

May Fourth Movement and cheongsam

During the May Fourth Movement, many female students actively participated in the struggle, and the clothing at that time still retained the characteristics of Qing Dynasty women’s clothing such as standing collars and coiled buttons, but the overall color was quite plain, and the sleeves and hem of the blouse were much shorter. At this time, female intellectuals proposed three requirements for women’s dresses: “hygiene, economy and beauty”. The influence of western dress cutting style, women’s liberation requirements, there are many late Qing Dynasty female intellectuals wearing men’s clothing, hoping to break the inequality between men and women, these trends plus the total, so the birth of the Qipao – a Chinese cultural spirit and has the advantages of Western-style clothing, but not the traditional Chinese women’s clothing new clothing.

Similarities between Cheongsam and Qipao

Qipao and cheongsam are same shape for the right obeisance, standing collar, plate buckle or snap buttons, long to the knee or below the knee or even to the ground, there are single, folder and folder cotton (folder wool, folder velvet) several kinds.

One way of looking at it is that cheongsam is qipao , which is the transliteration of the Cantonese word “long robe”, also known as Chinese dress.

In addition to Cantonese, during the Japanese rule, Taiwan also used the Minnan language to call such clothes “cheongsam“. After the war, Hong Kong used a mixture of “Qipao” and “cheongsam”, and preferred to call it “Cheongsam” in order to highlight the local historical characteristics. When the Nationalist government moved to Taiwan, the “Qipao” worn by women gradually overshadowed the name “cheongsam”.

In the end, from the basic shape of clothing: standing collar, open right lapel, plate buckle (with concealed buttons), slit at the hem of the dress, the cheongsam and qipao are similar.

The difference between qipao and cheongsam: from the design, tailoring and fabric sophistication to distinguish, that cheongsam is more plain and simple, does not emphasize the three-dimensional fit, the style of mass, such as some schools in Hong Kong girls’ uniforms. The “Red Gang tailors”, who learned western-style tailoring and cutting techniques in Shanghai, moved to Hong Kong and Taiwan after the war, bringing in elements and features of popular fashion and promoting the “ Qipao

In 1926, Liang You magazine, which was first established in Shanghai, published “Shanghai Women’s Clothes Fashion” in the 4th issue in May, in which photos of “long cheongsam” appeared. The “Qipao” of “Qi” refers to the Qing dynasty flag people, the eight banners include Manchu, Han, Mongolian and other nationalities, although the flag women did not always wear a one-piece robe, but compared to the traditional Chinese cross-necked right overlapping dress, this kind of clothes similar to the flag dress is considered a new style of improvement. Eileen Chang points out in “The Changing of the Clothes” that “after the Five Nations Republic, women all over the country suddenly and unanimously adopted the cheongsam, not so much to pledge allegiance to the Qing Dynasty and advocate a restoration movement, but because women deliberately wanted to imitate men.” It can be seen that the tone of both cheongsam and qipao is women wearing men’s clothing.


Qipao Vs Cheongsam Difference

Qi pao vs cheongsam shape


 Qipao for the Western-style three-dimensional tailoring, waist obvious, some use chest and waist provinces; gowns do not wear pants, more transparent stockings; slits on both sides of the higher, high, low collar changes; plate buckle sample color variations; edging process; fabrics are rich in variety, colorful; show female curves and flavor, so the fashion and show nobility, and so the popularity of a hundred years and not failing, with a very strong vitality.


 The “Cheongsam”(Long robe in Chiense) is cut in plane, loose and straight, without waist, and the female curve is hidden; the two sides are not slit or one side is slit, and the slit is low; the fabrics and colors are plain and simple; a word plate button or snap button is used; pants or cotton socks are worn inside the tunic;

Qipao Vs Cheongsam Application:

The “Qipao” is usually taken by young and middle-aged women and the wives of rich and noble people; And it’s a famous cloth for women.


The “Cheongsam”was mostly worn by civil servants, students, young girls and elderly women of ordinary people’s families. Since it was not as fashionable and beautiful as the “Qipao”, the female cheongsam was withdrawn from the stage of clothing history after 1950. And nowadays it getting to be meaning man’s long robe.

In Hong Kong, cheongsam = qipao

Qipao refers specifically to the traditional women’s clothing popular in China after the 1920s, but only in Hong Kong do they call “Qipao” as “Cheongsam”. In the Oxford dictionary, cheongsam (Qipao) is derived from the Cantonese pronunciation of “long shirt”.

During the May Fourth Movement in 1919, women wore men’s robes, and this new style of clothing was very similar to the “shirts” worn by Cantonese women at the time, but with a longer body, hence the name “long shirts. The term “cheongsam” refers to the qipao, which better reflects the cultural origins of women wearing men’s robes.

Qipao Vs Cheongsam Conclusion

Cheongsam originally refers to men’s clothing, after the May Fourth Movement, women pursued gender equality and followed the example of men wearing robes, after the modified, the cheongsam cloth form the late traditional female dress Qipao. In Cantonese, the “Cheongsam” is Qipao.

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