My inspiration for this look came from my love for old Chinese advertising art from the 1920s-1940s. Just as in the West during those decades, many talented Shanghai artists made their living painting beautiful calendar girls (called yufenpai) to sell everything from cosmetics to insect repellant. These girls, often languid and always gorgeously attired, seemed to glow from the paper they were printed on. I’m just mad for them–you can see many more by scrolling to the bottom of this post!
This style of dress is called a cheongsam or qipao. A marriage between traditional garments and Western styles, the modern cheongsam was first created in 1920s Shanghai. Worn by educated women, actresses, and courtesans, the cheongsam of the 20’s was still a loose garment with flowing sleeves.
It wasn’t until the 1930’s that the cheongsam we know today began to materialize: during this time, it began to hug the body. The high leg-slits made their first appearance, and the loose sleeves of the 20’s gave way to cap sleeves or none at all.
Basic 3/4 Length Black Mesh Sleevey Wonders The seams on the back of Sleevey Wonders always remind me of seamed stockings. I think they do for arms what seamed stockings did for legs—a great deal indeed!
I adore mine—the embroidery is especially beautiful in person! I bought it on Ebay for about $34 from a Chinese seller. In my experience, cheongsam tend to run small (especially in the ribcage), so you may want to order a size up from the one you think you’d wear or ask the seller to give you a flat measurement of the ribcage area.
If you’d like to work this look into your casual everyday wardrobe, perhaps a blouse like the one above would be right up your alley! I found this beauty on chinasprout.com—they ship from New York and the prices are very good. They have a lot of beautiful tops and cheongsam as well. Most of them are sleeveless or cap-sleeved (no more forgiving than sleeveless), but will look lovely with a pair of Sleevey Wonders!
I’d like to share with you a gallery of Shanghai Posters that I collected while researching this post–I found most of them the Chinese web. Many of these don’t turn up on the English web, and the ones that do are usually lower quality. Enjoy!
Fizzyfiiz’s picture post of the In The Mood For Cheongsam exhibit at the National Museum of Singapore really helped me understand the details of how the cheongsam changed over time: http://bit.ly/KyfRe5
Information on the English web about Shanghai Posters is pretty scarce and repetitive. The links below have by far the most in-depth information on these posters of anything I could find).
Old Orient Museum–Beautiful presentation of many digitally restored posters, pinups, and early Japanese photography. Best general overview on the English web: http://bit.ly/JJ1sPS
Sections of the following two books can be viewed on Google Books:
Shanghai Girl Gets All Dressed Up (this book looks fun–it covers the Shanghai of the 30′s, its fashion, and explores the lives of wealthy and glamorous women): http://bit.ly/KwJagS
Selling Happiness: Calendar Posters and Visual Culture in Early-Twentieth Century Shanghai (very detailed history of Shanghai Posters, the artists who made them, and the artistic techniques they used): http://bit.ly/IXY54O
The Representation of Modern Women in Yuefenpai in 1920s and 1930s Shanghai (a thesis): http://bit.ly/If4ERE