Modern Qipao Vs Traditional Qipao

The Qipao, also known as Cheongsam in Cantonese, is a traditional Chinese dress that has evolved significantly over time. The differences between traditional Qipao and modern Qipao are mainly in terms of style, design, materials, and the context in which they are worn.


Traditional Qipao

The traditional Qipao originated in the 1920s during the Manchu-ruled Qing dynasty. It was typically loose and baggy, covering most of the woman’s body, with a high neck and wide sleeves. This design was intended to conceal the figure of the wearer, emphasizing modesty and grace.


Key characteristics of the traditional Qipao include:


Material: Traditional Qipao were usually made from silk, satin, or cotton, with intricate embroidery.

Design: Traditional designs include high collar, covered chest, loose waist, and full or 3/4 length sleeves.

Patterns: The patterns were usually nature-inspired, such as flowers, birds, landscapes, or dragons and phoenixes, which bear symbolic meanings.

Wearing Context: Traditional Qipao was worn as daily wear, but also in formal contexts.

Modern Qipao

The modern Qipao evolved in Shanghai in the 1920s and became increasingly popular in the 1930s. The modern Qipao is more form-fitting and reveals more of the woman’s figure.


Key characteristics of the modern Qipao include:


Material: Modern Qipao are made from a wide variety of materials, including not only silk and satin, but also lace, chiffon, and other modern fabrics.

Design: The modern Qipao is typically more form-fitting, with a high slit on the side to facilitate movement. The collar may be lower, and the sleeves may be shorter or even sleeveless.

Patterns: While traditional patterns are still used, modern Qipao often feature more diverse and creative designs, or even solid colors without patterns.

Wearing Context: The modern Qipao is often worn at special occasions, such as weddings, parties, or cultural events. It is also popular as a fashion statement or for casual wear.

In summary, while the traditional and modern Qipao share the same origins, they have evolved in different ways to reflect changes in fashion, social norms, and cultural expectations. The modern Qipao is more versatile and varied, while the traditional Qipao is more uniform and conservative.


The Qipao, also known as Cheongsam, is a traditional Chinese dress that has evolved significantly over the centuries. It reflects the socio-cultural changes that have taken place in Chinese society. The major difference between the traditional Qipao and modern Qipao lies in the cut, design, fabric, and the overall style.


Traditional Qipao (Cheongsam)


The traditional Qipao originated in the 17th century during the Manchu-ruled Qing Dynasty. It was typically loose fitting, providing coverage from the neck to the feet. Its features included:


Design: The traditional Qipao was designed to cover most of the woman’s body. It had a high neck, and the hem reached the ankles. The dress was loose and wide, focusing more on modesty.


Fabric: The traditional Qipao was usually made from silk and featured intricate embroidery detailing the rich Chinese culture.


Cut: The cut was straight and loose, designed to conceal the figure of the woman.


Sleeves: The sleeves were either half or full length.


Modern Qipao (Cheongsam)


The modern Qipao evolved in Shanghai in the 1920s, becoming more fashionable and less conservative. The modernized version is more figure-hugging and shorter than its predecessor. Its features include:


Design: The design of the modern Qipao is influenced by Western fashion trends. It is tailored to be form-fitting and accentuates the figure of the woman.


Fabric: While silk is still commonly used, other materials like satin, velvet, and even polyester are used to make modern Qipao. Some modern designs also incorporate lace and other Western elements.


Cut: The cut is more form-fitting, designed to accentuate the curves of the woman. The length of the dress can vary, with some designs being as short as mini-dresses.


Sleeves: Modern Qipao can have different types of sleeves, ranging from sleeveless designs to short sleeves, and occasionally full length.


Patterns: Modern Qipao also features a variety of patterns and prints, from traditional Chinese motifs to more abstract or modern designs.


In summary, while the traditional Qipao emphasizes modesty and reserved elegance, the modern Qipao is a blend of Chinese tradition and Western fashion trends, highlighting femininity and fashion-forward style.

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