Qipao Pattern: The Chinese Traditional Patterns in Cheongsam Design

The pattern refers to the abstraction and variation according to certain structure law, forming a pattern with regular and stereotyped characteristics and commonly used in people’s practical life. Traditional patterns are the essence of Chinese traditional culture and art, and have been developed in form and connotation after continuous enrichment. In cheongsam design, the use and development of patterns is an important tool to trace the history, with a strong historical background, traditional culture and national emotion, and is given a specific meaning. Now we will introduce the Chinese traditional dress qipao pattern with development and design.

1. Overview of Traditional Chinese Dress Patterns

1.1 Origin of Chinese traditional patterns

Ancient Chinese traditional dress patterns originated from three sources: (1) folk crafts, which were created by working people spontaneously and were often simple, rough and simple. (2) Furniture, daily necessities, clothing and jewelry used by feudal emperors, royalty, nobles and wealthy merchants, which were carefully designed by craftsmen with highly detailed patterns and rich and luxurious colors. (3) Traditional religious art is a unique art form created by skilled craftsmen who absorbed foreign cultures, and these patterns are very tightly structured and rich in content.

1.2 Periodic characteristics

The rich historical information of civilization generation, development and change. Chinese traditional patterns can be traced back to the geometric patterns of the primitive era, such as the animal patterns popular during the Xia, Shang, Zhou and Six Dynasties, the floral and herbaceous patterns prevalent during the Tang Dynasty, and the many comprehensive patterns of the Song Dynasty. The geometric patterns in the primitive period are mainly derived from some practical objects, such as bronze and pottery, and the representative ones are Hui, Ruyi, Baji, Fang Sheng, Fire, etc.

1.3 Organizational form

The composition of traditional patterns can be divided into three categories: individual patterns, continuous patterns, and suitable patterns. Suitable patterns are patterns with a specific shape limitation, in which the pattern material is processed and organized within a specific contour line. The continuous pattern is a continuous pattern created in endless cycles with unit repetition, generally, there are two types of patterns: bipartite and quadripartite. The individual pattern is a decorative pattern without outer contours and skeletal restrictions, which can be worked individually and used freely .

2 The evolution and development of cheongsam patterns

2.1 Republican period

In the early Republican period, when the qipao pattern was still in its infancy, its decorative style basically followed the style of the late Qing Dynasty, and the qipao pattern was consistent with the traditional Chinese decorative pattern, which did not change much compared with the previous dynasty. In the middle of the Republic of China, cheongsam patterns gradually began to find their own direction, during this period, people gradually began to understand and accept the formal characteristics and aesthetic style of Western patterns, cheongsam patterns incorporated various styles borrowed from the West, and the traditional patterns gradually changed. In the late Republican period, the qipao pattern has developed into a modern mood style, combining western features and folk elements, while retaining a unique Chinese flavor.

2.2 After the founding of New China to the late Cultural Revolution

After the founding of New China, the cheongsam was very simple and plain in terms of style, decoration, fabric and dressing style. In the early period of the founding of the country, qipao pattern is the national pattern “take its essence, remove its dregs”, remove some feudal patterns, more use of plum, orchid, bamboo and chrysanthemum, the four seasons of flowers, dragon and phoenix and many other attractive themes. In 1966, in order to comply with the social trend of breaking the “Four Olds”, cheongsam was completely abolished in women’s clothing. After the reform and opening up, the change of ideology brought about economic prosperity, the development of people’s social culture and psychology, and the policy of opening up to the outside world, the cheongsam became popular again as the representative of traditional culture, and the simple and plain pattern was reborn in mainland China.

2.3 80s to present

From the 80s to the present, people pay more attention to digging out the excellent tradition, emphasize the national style, and also integrate the atmosphere of the times, and appropriately borrow foreign style, reflecting a traditional, elegant, full, healthy and positive artistic characteristics. 80s qipao pattern design is mainly based on the traditional style to improve the details, the overall style is still oriental, ebullient. In the development of modern cheongsam, with the popularity of national trend style in 2018, national trend style cheongsam began to appear in the market, based on Chinese cultural background, combined with some historical stories or harmonic phrases on the Internet, etc. to form new national trend style patterns, which are bolder and more colorful than the traditional cheongsam patterns.


3 The design form of cheongsam/qipao pattern

3.1 Graphic form

Graphics are visual images that convey information, concepts and intentions, and have the characteristics of visual communication. The basic form of a graphic needs to be expressed through the mutual transformation of points, lines and surfaces. Different combinations of lines form the colorful graphic forms that we see now. The patterns of cheongsam can be roughly divided into three categories: plant patterns, animal patterns and geometric patterns from the characteristics of graphic forms.

3.1.1 Plant pattern

Peony pattern and lotus pattern are one of the representatives of Chinese traditional dress decorative patterns. In the decoration of cheongsam, peony pattern is mostly seen on the collar, cuffs, front placket and hem edge, and the artistic effect is often enhanced by the use of contrast and exaggeration. The lotus flower pattern is known for its natural and pure image. The lotus flower pattern in cheongsam adopts a frontal overlooking angle to highlight its abundant and beautiful appearance, and often combines with lotus stems, lotus puffs, lotus leaves, lotus pond water waves, water plants and other aspects to outline a watery lotus pond moonlight, simple and elegant picture effect.

3.1.2 Animal qipao pattern

Animals are the most common patterns in the cheongsam of the Republic of China. Such as butterfly pattern, early often with a variety of embroidery process appears, the middle and late in the form of printing, the form of rich and diverse. On the improved cheongsam of the Republic of China period, the butterfly pattern mostly appears as a whole, but there are also combinations of expressions, such as “butterfly loving flowers” and “butterfly bird pattern”, a large number of butterflies to form a “hundred butterfly pattern “The butterflies are depicted in a large number of patterns, which are delicate and gorgeous. The phoenix was originally the king of all birds in ancient Chinese legends, usually symbolizing good luck and good fortune.

3.1.3 Geometric qipao patterns

The pattern can be combined with other decorative patterns, such as the combination with the back, cloud and Ruyi patterns to form the Ruyi cloud pattern. Usually adopt two-sided continuous or four-sided continuous way. Such as the diamond pattern originated from the fishing net used by fishermen to catch fish, symbolizing “prosperity”. The rhombus pattern is widely used on cheongsams, and it is popular because it breaks the boldness of a single stripe and is popular for modifying the figure of Asian women. The striped pattern is a traditional Chinese textile decorative pattern, which can be seen in Tang Dynasty fabric square brocade and Shujiang brocade. The striped pattern is full of rigor, rationality and order, which is in line with the aesthetic psychology of Oriental women and reflects the dignified and soft temperament of Oriental women.

3.2 Color characteristics

Color permeates every corner of the objective world, and its objective state directly affects the emotion of the viewer, so it is one of the most expressive elements. Research shows that “the attention to color accounts for about 80% of human vision”, color plays an important role in decorative design. According to the different emotional orientation, the color design of cheongsam patterns can be divided into two styles: one is the traditional, introverted style, generally lighter colors; the other is the fashion style, bright colors, high saturation.

3.2.1 Traditional colors

The traditional style of color performance is generally characterized by high brightness and low saturation. The traditional color of the decorative pattern of the Chinese cheongsam is varied, and the color brightness and saturation can be freely adjusted, giving a sense of calm beauty and a comfortable overall feeling. The fresh and elegant colors of cheongsam express the bright, gentle and relaxed side of women, and can also have an age-defying effect. It can be seen from the Republic of China month plate image material that the use of gray tones is the most common, more water red, pink, vivid red, etc., saturated big red is rarely used; blue tones are mostly sky blue, lake blue, cobalt blue and water blue; green tones are mostly yellow green, dark green and pink green; yellow tones are mostly medium yellow, orange yellow and light yellow.

3.2.2 Fashionable colors

From the 1920s to the 1930s, the market was flooded with simple decorated cheongsam, and at the same time, western culture was also introduced in large quantities, when “modern girls” appeared, they were avant-garde, open, with unlimited curiosity and imagination for new and unknown things. As the number of “modern girls” increased, the social acceptance of cheongsam colors also increased, and various cheongsam colors came into being, and new cheongsam color styles emerged, characterized by bright, saturated, vivid and eye-catching colors. In the advertisement of Yin Danshilin, the large area of red shows brightness and elegance, and the small white flowers decorating the collar, cuffs and skirt edge not only balance the overall visual impression, but also increase the interest, showing the noble and elegant temperament of women in the picture, perfectly expressing the noble and elegant temperament of women in the 30s.

3.3 Spatial structure

The spatial structure of cheongsam patterns is relatively active and free, but there is also rigor, the spatial arrangement of patterns can be divided into three categories: (1) continuous structure type; (2) free scattered type; (3) overall tiling type. The continuous style is often restrained and strict, the scattered style is bold and dashing, and the tiled style is in between, seemingly chaotic, but actually delicate. These three compositional methods create a unique aesthetic in decorative arts, with an excellent grasp of rhythm and rhyme as well as space and margin.

3.3.1 Tiling

It is a basic composition consisting of a grid-like pattern of cells on the horizontal and vertical edges extending from all sides. In other words, in the entire fabric of cheongsam, there is a regular arrangement of the same pattern of the same size and color, and the gap between each pattern is regular and full of rhythmic beauty. This combination of qipao patterns is very common in cheongsam decoration, and although the overall performance lacks vitality, interest and storytelling, it has a strong decorative character and forms a unique order. This combination of decorative patterns is common in all areas of decorative arts, from architectural murals to everyday objects, where qipao  patterns can be found

3.3.2 Scattered

The scattered combination of qipao patterns is a neat decorative space with decorative patterns placed on one side of its central axis, and its size is not constrained by space, as long as it achieves a balanced and coordinated state in the whole visual effect. The composition and arrangement of these qipao patterns seem to be very arbitrary, but this combination is actually the result of careful thinking and arrangement, so that the decoration as a whole gets a dashing and unrestrained impression, and achieves the perceptual effect of the form being scattered but not scattered.

3.3.3 Structured

The continuous structural qipao pattern is mostly found on the collar, cuffs and hem, as the edge decoration of cheongsam, in the form of two-sided continuous and four-sided continuous, to create a sense of order and seriousness. This combination of cheongsam patterns is arranged in a way that the first and the last are connected, with strong ductility and fluidity, focusing on the control of the overall rhythm rather than the performance of the subject matter, which is relatively simple and uncomplicated, without the piling up of gorgeous patterns, but creates a simple and uncomplicated, neat and uncluttered, artistic and decorative pattern combination.

In the fast developing modern society, people are in between the past and the future, and the graphics resonate with people’s emotions. Cheongsam design makes use of traditional Chinese patterns, analyzes, summarizes and refines traditional culture, transforms it into designable elements, brings cultural innovation, gives deeper meaning and cultural connotation to the design work, and the traditional culture precipitated by history contains multi-level and multi-faceted aesthetic culture, which will make everyone become the inheritor and practitioner of Chinese traditional culture.

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