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Cheongsam (Chinese Dress)


The cheongsam, also known as a qipao, is a close-fitting dress that originated in 1920s Shanghai. There are many different designs of the cheongsam including those with short-capped sleeves, long fur lined sleeves and sleeveless.

Traditionally, Cheongsam is made of silk and embroidered with pearls and other decorations. Cheongsams are close fitting, and draw the outline of the wearer’s body.

In Hong Kong, the cheongsam may refer to either male or female garments, however traditionally in  Western countries the word cheongsam applies to womens clothing.

Cultural notes

Throughout the 1920’s- 1940’s, the cheongsam was a popular outfit for women in metropolitan China. Shortly after the rise of Communism, the cheongsam was seen as being middle-class, and was abandoned as everyday clothing. The cheongsam is now gaining popularity in film, fashion and beauty pageants in China and worldwide.

The cheongsam is now often worn as a uniform for restaurant staff, airline hostesses and is the offical formal attire of Chinese female Diplomats.

In Western weddings, Chinese brides, or brides marrying into a Chinese family, will often wear cheongsam for a portion of the wedding day. It is common for many brides to have both a traditional white wedding dress and a cheongsam that they wear during the tea ceremony.

Suggested activities

Books/ Story time:

Dramatic Play:

  • Include a range of cultural dress ups in your home corner year round
  • Set up a Chinese restaurant using placemats, chopsticks, tablecloths, bamboo steamers and Chinese food sets

Puzzles/ Games:

  • Borrow Chinese puzzles that depict the clothing the children are wearing

Community Engagement:

  • Invite a parent to share their cultural heritage with the children – reading a cultural story, sharing the similarities and differences or cooking with the children.

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The research for this resource was made possible through a grant from the Central Coast Council.