2012 Ballpoint pen, acrylic, gold leaf, glitter, PVA adhesive 42 x 29.7 cm
In the 1910s, Qipao was still considered the Machu court dress and modern women had not yet adopted the style. Women still favoured jacket and trousers or skirts developed from the loosely-fitted style worn by Han women during the Ching Dynasty but now the fit became slimmer, the length of skirts shorter, and the materials used simpler with less embroidery. Also Western hairstyles, shoes, accessories and trimmings were adopted due to the view of younger Chinese women that the West was sophisticated and modern.
2012 Ballpoint pen, acrylic, gold leaf, silver leaf, copper leaf, glitter, PVA adhesive on paper 42 x 29.7 cm
The 1920s was a significant turning point for women’s traditional status in Chinese society. Women university students started adopting men’s scholarly robes as a symbol of feminism and this became almost the prototype of the slimmer-fitting modern Qipao. It was not until the mid-1920s that Qipao finally reinvented itself with a silhouette heavily influenced by fashion from the Western world.
2012 Ballpoint pen, acrylic, gold leaf, polyester, glitter, PVA adhesive on paper 42 x 29.7 cm
Shanghai continued to be an affluent and decadent city even during the Great Depression. Chinese fashion continued to flourish under the influence of Paris haute couture and Hollywood movie stars who favoured an Art Deco style with its streamlined designs. The 1930s were the heyday of pre-revolutionary Chinese cinema. Film stars were the fashion icons of the day and under their influence a softer more slender silhouette was introduced. It was all about modernity and the ‘body perfect’ mentality encouraged women to exercise. The silhouette and the fluidity of the material choices illustrated women’s modern lifestyles. One of Art Deco’s influences came from geometric designs in traditional Chinese art. At the same time, modern Chinese art and design was heavily influenced by Western Art Deco. Bold Art Deco styled printed materials were the most popular choice of materials for Qipao and contrasting piping on the high collar and hem emphasised the bold design of the look.
Art Deco的其中一個影響是源自傳統中國藝術的幾何圖案設計。與此同時，現代中國藝術和設計在很大程度上亦受到Art Deco影響。強烈對比的Art Deco式樣印花織物是最流行的旗袍素材；高領和下擺的對比滾邊，進一步強調了整個造型的大膽設計。
Qipao 旗袍 (Shanghai 上海 1940s)
2012 Ballpoint pen, acrylic, gold leaf, Swarovski crystals, glitter, PVA adhesive on paper 42 x 29.7 cm
Fashion continued to evolve even during the hardship of the war. Women’s fashion became militarised and very much influenced by masculine styles. A more structured silhouette was introduced and shoulder pads and heavier materials were required to create a more masculine influenced look. Chinese fashion was no exception. Lower collars became fashionable and shoulder pads were added to give a more ‘upside down triangle’ shape for the Qipao.
2012 Ballpoint pen, acrylic, white gold, gold, copper leaf on paper 42 x 29.7 cm
When the Communist government took over mainland China in 1949 a more practical clothing style was introduced to the people. Qipao was seen as a symbol of the old China’s bourgeois decadence. It continued to evolve though in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Because of Western influences, the silhouette of Qipao changed again and this time, ironically, it became ultra-feminine. Curvy and voluptuous with a tiny waist, a contrast to the earlier feminist incarnation as a feminist adoption of the men’s robe. This was the beginning of the Western stereotype of the Chinese woman. In 1960, the Hollywood film ‘The World of Suzy Wong’ instilled in the Western audience a visual stereotype of the Qipao. Even today, in Western eyes, the silhouette of this reading of the Qipao is ‘traditionally’ and ‘typically’ Chinese even though Qipao had evolved dramatically in each decades of the last century and most Chinese women have not worn it as an everyday dress for four decades.
2012 Ballpoint pen, acrylic, palladium leaf, PVA adhesive on paper 42 x 29.7 cm
Although the Qipao of the early1960s, body consciously fitted with a small waist and a high collar, had not changed much since the Fifties, a more androgynous look was becoming fashionable. As in the West, youth culture became increasingly influential in Hong Kong in the second half of the Sixties. Young people no longer aspired to look like their parents in order to seem respectable. Fashion became youthful and more rebellious. Unconventional materials were used such as PVC and paper. Qipao began to lose its appeal and as young women yearned for Western clothing, fewer and fewer women wanted to wear Qipao. It was the beginning of the end of Qipao as an everyday form of dress as women went for an easier option of more practical Western styled fashion.
2012 Ballpoint pen, acrylic, white gold, gold, and copper leaf, PVA adhesive on paper 42 x 29.7 cm
In the 1970s, women pretty much stopped wearing Qipao on a daily basis and when it did appear, a Western silhouette would be adapted. It was kept alive as formal wear at weddings, banquets and other ceremonial occasions, as a costume in the finale of the annual Miss Hong Kong beauty pageant, as well as school uniforms in several girls’ schools and work wear for restaurant hostesses.
2012 Ballpoint pen, acrylic, gold leaf, silver leaf, copper leaf on paper 42 x 29.7 cm
Although many society women as well as film stars of the previous era continued to wear Qipao for ceremonial occasions and the Miss Hong Kong pageant still had its Qipao rounds, in the 1980s the majority of women pretty much entirely abandoned Qipao. It made a very brief comeback in the mid-Eighties but as a sort of novelty fashion item. It was almost treated as a foreign costume, especially when it was worn by performers as part of a themed outfit.
2012 Ballpoint pen, acrylic, gold leaf, glitter, swarovski crystals, synthetic pearls, PVA adhesive on paper 42 x 29.7 cm
The fashion industry often takes inspiration from underground youth subcultures and fashionable young people also take inspiration from the fashion industry and recreate styles they’re inspired by and personalise them. It’s an intricate relationship. In the early 1990s, Qipao made its way to the West where fashion forward urban young people would find second-hand Qipao in thrift stores or cheaply made ones in Chinese souvenir shops. This was simply a fashion statement, a way of being different, the cultural aspects had little to do with it. At the same time, the Chinese interpreted the trend rather differently as having a somewhat superficial sentimental resonance arising from women’s memories of photographs of their mothers or even grandmothers in the Qipao dress. To modern young women of that generation, Qipao was merely a novelty fashion statement.