The Tale Of A Qipao 旗袍 (Chi-Pao) – It’s Not All About Suzie Wong

The Tale Of A Qipao ( Chi-Pao ) - It's Not All About Suzie Wong

There were countless politicians; movie stars and celebrities, Chinese and other nationalities, who have graced qipao in contemporary culture. Here I’d like to share some of my favourites…

Soong May-Ling, also well known as Madame Chiang, as the first lady of the Republic of China, she was often seen in qipao, especially at important occasions such as her Speech in U.S. Congress in 1943, and later on in the same year, attending the Cairo Confrence. She also appeared on the cover of the US TIME magazine three times, and twice wearing a qipao.

Leaving politic aside and talking movies, here are some of my favourite qipao movie moments…
Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American movie star who achieved international stardom in the 1920s. Wong became a fashion icon in the ’20s and the ’30s for her signature fringe and her China doll look.
1960s Chinese actress Nancy Kwan also made the modern cheongsam fashionable in western culture after her lead role in The World of Suzie Wong.
I always see Hong Kong Chinese movie star LiLi Hua as the ‘Chinese Sophia Loren’. LiLi starred in over one hundred films in Asia from the ’40s to the ’70s, a lovely photo of her taken with Clark Gable in Hong Kong Bay in the ’40s (see image below), not only was she in a qipao in that shot, she also wore cat-eye sunglasses. I love that look so much! A perfect east meets west!

Maggie Cheung in Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love, topped the list of my favourite qipao moments!
Almost every scene in which Maggie appeared, she had a different gorgeous qipao on. It’s hard to say whether it’s Maggie, who gave qipao the oriental sensuality or it’s the other way around? Therefore, perhaps both; made a marriage made in heaven!!!

A close second in the list of my favourite qipao moments would be Joan Chen in the Australian film The Home Song Stories (directed by Tony Ayres). A demanding role in which Joan played a nightclub singer in the ’60s Hong Kong AND a Melbourne suburban house wife… All the time wearing qipao sensationally!
Twice Oscar-winning director Ang-Lee also made this ‘oriental sensuality’ a male fantasy on the big screen – Lust Caution. Lead actress Tang Wei wore suspender belts and stockings underneath those qipao. WOW! I’ve never seen a demure young lady that sexy!
Another sensational qipao moment was Michelle Yeoh, who presented at 2011 Academy Awards wearing a crystal beaded tiger print floor length qipao gown.
I also adore Gong Li’s modern; low cut qipao (by YSL) which she wore beautifully at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.

In Buz Luhrmann’s movie Australia, Nicole Kidman wore a floral print, crew neckline over cutout front modern cheongsam. I thought she looked adorable especially with the added flower in her hair.
Heather Graham looked super hot in a colourful qipao in the erotic thriller Killing Me Softly. She blown my mind away!!
Spiderman must have flipped his web when Kirsten Dunst appeared in a cheongsam in the 2002 Spiderman film.
Even in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter’s Chinese date wore a modern qipao.

In more recent years, Ann Hathaway was wearing a floral print blue qipao in the film One Day.
The list goes on and on… Along with other international mega stars, such as: Madonna (American Music Awards 1995); Celine Dion (World Music Awards 2004); Alicia Keys; Kelly Preston; Kylie Minogue; Emma Watson and so on…

Main picture credit: Chris Balven



  1. Here it is! The last article of my ‘qipao trilogy’ – I’d like to dedicate them to Chinese Spring Festival…
    Hope we are all going to enjoy a healthy; fulfilled and joyous Year of the Horse!!! 🙂

  2. Enjoyed reading your quipao trilogy, a unique topic and well researched, presented in an interesting, entertaining and well-writtten way.
    I hope you can come up with some other similar ideas for discussion and information, even education!
    Keep ’em coming.

    • Thanks Li. 😉
      I’m glad that you find my Qipao trilogy interesting and entertaining! And if I find a fashion style I’m passionate about, of course I’d love to write a similar history/story about ‘it’ and sharing that with everybody here!
      As a Chinese woman from Taiwan, I just find ‘Qipao’ – this fashion/style topic – which is close to my heart and my own background and experience, so I MUST do it!! 🙂
      Do you have a Qipao story of your own that you’d like to share it with me and my readers here Siao-Li? X X

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