A look at Happy Cheongsam’s new collections

The Happy Cheongsam launched its mother – daughter cheongsam sets in late March called ‘Super Mama Collection’, and last Saturday, the second collection was launched as well. For the former, only three sets are available and they are based on the straight cut cheongsams from the first collection. Min from THC has rightly used models to showcase the new dresses, particularly an absolutely adorable toddler girl modeling for the kiddy cheongsams. THC offers them for little girls as young as 1 year old. Miz Apparels, a boutique that specializes in Korean- made clothes and cheongsams, also offer them for little girls. But the dresses are made for 4 or 5 years old, and if you want them in smaller sizes, you have to pay S$12 for alteration. Though the dresses can be altered back to fit the growing girl.

So here are the three sets from THC, the Super Mama Collection.

image

Flawless Rose


image

image

Spring Vinty


image
image

Take A Side


image

Of these three, I find the daughter design for Spring Vinty the cutest. You can see from above that the daughter dresses come with matching headbands. The sets are not available immediately but require pre-order, and according to the store they will be available within 5 weeks.

Now to the second collection of THC. Min crafted a story called ‘Elves Garden’, and I was pretty intrigued when I read the teaser.

Elves Garden, is an enchanting story about an elf girl going on an ENGLISH PICNIC by the magical LAKE CRABTREE in the RED FOREST.

In the midst of her journey, she meets new friends PEACOCK FAIRY and the REDRIDING HOOD in the SECRET GARDEN.

I was really looking forward to the pictures, and they appeared on Facebook last Friday afternoon. My reaction was “oh. This is it?” Yep, I was rather disappointed. I was hoping that the collection would top the first, but unfortunately there is only one dress that is a standout. Min came out with only 6 designs this time, nothing wrong there since it’s a hefty effort to launch a collection. There are five dresses and a cheongsam top.

This one, Secret Garden, is similar to the flare dress cheongsam from Our Bitsy Prints. But unlike those from OBP, the collar is too short and hardly looks like a cheongsam dress from the pictures. It didn’t strike me when I checked out the first collection, until I wore the dress, Tiffany’s Breakfast. I told Min then that the collar has to be at least half an inch higher. My beef with this dress is not just the collar, but also the cushion cover-like floral prints. My husband, who saw the dress, remarked, “going for a picnic? Yeah the dress can double up as ground mat.”
image

This is another flare skirt cheongsam. Deja vu. I find the print too kiddy, reminds me of those found on my son’s shirts. If I put it on, it would definitely be age inappropriate.
image

THC website described this dress “English Picnic” has a flare skirt, but it looks like A-line to me. Also the picture description below mentioned “unlined”, however in the website it’s indicated otherwise. Anyway the dress has a french inspired print of rooster and flower basket contrasting with polka dots. The combination on the cheongsam looks odd to me.
image

Another A-line cheongsam with another kiddy print, which reminds me of sticker decal for kiddy room. Pass!
image

This is an outstanding dress with a beautiful peacock print. But the proportion doesn’t look right; either the peacock should be a little smaller or the dress should be longer. And please raise the collar.
image

The only top available in the collection. It’s alright, albeit a little youngish; and it doesn’t match the shorts at all.
image

Min has accepted my suggestion on the collar but this will only be seen in the fourth collection. Meanwhile I guess it’s best I leave my expectations open.

More cheongsam reviews (Updated)

A few weeks ago,  I was contacted by Robes Rouge of Elegente to check out the website and review the cheongsams. Elegente is based in Quanzhou, a city in Fujian province, South China, and is an online shop that provides a wide selection of cheongsam dresses and some outer wears. Robes set up this store because of her love for the dress, and also as a remembrance of her late grandfather, who unbeknownst to her was a tailor in Shanghai. According to the story in the website, she was going through her grandfather stuff and discovered an old cheongsam with a photo of a Caucasian lady dressed in the dress. She found out there was a love story behind the dress from her grandmother, that her grandfather was in love with the lady but they were not able to get together. It’s a beautiful story though I think it would be more interesting if the photo is shown in the website.

Anyway the website is in English and caters to international customers. Elegente provides tailoring service as well where you can set up your measurement profile, and Elegente will will make the dress based on your measurements. This way you get a virtual tailor-made cheongsam though standard sizes are also available. The cheongsams are mostly made using silk fabric, and they are priced at more than US$300, which is the typical rate charged by the established cheongsam stores here. (Though for those high end stores like Hana, the cost for workmanship is even higher.) Shipping for Elegente customers is free if you purchase above US$100.

Now back to the subject in hand, the cheongsams. Looking through the numerous pictures, I find that most of the dresses are in the traditional style. I’m not sure if it’s because this is the preference of their customers, but there’s a “I’ve seen it before” feel to the clothes, or in culinary parlance, they are of one note. Sure they do look elegant, like these two below.
image
image

Then there are the typical floral prints, with some at calf length which is a little too long. The dresses would be considered as trendy in the 1960s, but in the 21st century we need an update, which is slightly above the knees.
image
image
image

Elegente does offer retro cheongsams like elbow-length sleeved dresses circa 1920s. These should be strictly for women in their 60′s or older.
image
image

Still, there are more modern styles, either modern print or modern cut, which are quite stylish.

This design is not bad, but it should be slightly shorter to be contemporary, and please drop the black stockings.

This design is not bad, but it should be slightly short to be contemporary, and drop the black leggings.

image

A modern dress for women who are not model - thin.

image

This a red woollen cheongsam that Elegente offers for Chinese New Year. I find it pretty chirpy and I like the interesting puffed up sleeves, and the dress has a sleek look to it. It should come in other colors for women who don't want to go bright red.

image

The wide royal blue piping against the maroon dress gives it a regal look. It would be better If a modern print is used for the dress. But color combination is great.

A pretty dress with print of a painting of lotus pond and a pair of mandarin ducks.

A pretty dress with print of a painting of lotus pond and a pair of mandarin ducks.

Elegente also offers wedding cheongsams in modern designs, but in the traditional red and gold colors. It would be better if the store is more adventurous, and go with other colors like pastel yellow, or sapphire green with bronze combination, so that brides are able to wear them on other occasions as well. Like this short cheongsam wedding dress, with floral sleeves. It’s a beautiful dress but it’s strange for the bride to wear this after the wedding.
image

A formal long wedding cheongsam, which is only for the wedding banquet. Problem with getting a long dress is that one hardly has the opportunity to attend very formal event that warrants such a dress, and worse it’s in the wedding colors.
image

Elegente should try to check out other stores and even the major fashion runway shows for ideas, particularly for the prints and colors.

(Updated on 13 April)
I was alerted by a friend that Elegente is not what it portrays to be. Firstly it appears that their dresses are also available in the wholesale site Tao Bao 淘宝 at cheaper prices, http://item.taobao.com/item.htm?id=20592887418, compared to those offered at Elegente. http://www.elegente.com/leaves-pattern-traditional-chinese-clothing-dress.html. The dresses on Taobao are from the designer, Redshop. So is this a case of the designer putting them on Taobao and undercutting Elegente?

Also according to the friend, when she checked out the “About us” page, the photo shown was that of the shop front of Hana (a Singapore-based high end cheongsam boutique that offers tailored made dresses). Though when she checked again, it had been taken down and replaced with the current picture. My friend also pointed out that the old picture of the so-called tailor and his wife is fake. I checked out the website she sent me, http://english.cri.cn/8706/2013/08/06/2661s780271.htm. It turns out that the photo belongs to a Chinese author by the name of RAO Pingru, a 91-year old man who has never been a tailor. This may explains why the picture of the Caucasian woman in cheongsam is not shown; it seems to me that the whole story is made up.

To be honest I can’t remember about the picture featured in the “About us” section when I first checked it out, as my main focus then was to review the dresses. But the fake story leaves a bad taste in my mouth. So I suggest that readers check out Taobao site instead.

Now to truly modern cheongsams from Our Bitsy Prints. They launched wrap skirt designs for their latest collection last week, such as this lime green top with batik bottom, which I find rather pretty.
image

OBP tried to incorporate peranakan elements into this dress with the batik bottom.
image

Personally I think what truly defines peranakan style is the nonya kebaya top. I had brought up this idea to Melanie from OBP, who also loves the kebaya but she finds it difficult to integrate it into a cheongsam. I agree; the intricate embroidered motif along the edges (known as sulam) requires highly skilled seamstress to produce. In fact kebaya embroidery is a dying art and there are very few women left who still possess the skill.

Here is an example of what a traditional nonya kebaya looks like. These two kebayas are from my collection. The top green one is made from voile and the yellow one is of cotton fabric. Take note of the beautiful scalloped embroidery along the collar, lapel, cuff and hem of the blouse.
image
image

Embroidered needlework is also found on the voile or coton fabric, and the embroidery is so well made that the underside looks almost identical to the topside. There is also beautiful chain stitching along the seams which is not found in the current blouses because it is very labor-intensive.
image
image
In the old days, the kebayas are paired with batik wrap (or sarong), but now, you can pair with tailored shorts, jeans (no holes please) for a casual look, or pencil skirt.

Anyway here is my fusion design of the nonya kebaya and cheongsam: incorporating the embroidered scallop edge of kebaya into the collar and chest fold panel of the cheongsam, pairing it with a batik wrap. A couple of kerosang faux button can be attached to the fold as well. (Kerosang is a brooch that holds the kebaya together as it usually doesn’t have buttons, and usually comes in 3 pieces.)
image

(Update)
A couple of pictures showing the nonya kebaya.
image

image

Buddy and the ball

Buddy loves playing with balls even before he could walk independently. We first knew about it from the teachers in infant care, where there are lots of toy balls available for the babies. I got a fake soccer ball for him to play with inside the play pen at home. But because it is soft, with fluff inside instead of air, it can’t roll well. Still I thought he could throw it while crawling or cruising.
image
image
When Buddy started walking, I checked out those balls in the infant care center, and noticed they have studs on them which I had never seen before. I asked teacher Allison for the contacts of their suppliers, which the supervisor provided. It turns out that these are no cheap balls like the one I bought. A bag of 3 sensory balls (which is what they are called) of various sizes costs more than S$75! (I also enquired about the kiddy furniture which seems very comfy for the older  infants, and we noticed Buddy sitting happily on the chair. I was told it is more than S$250! For that price it has better be damn comfy.)

Anyway my husband and I thought it’s pretty ridiculous to pay S$75 for the 3 balls. So we decided to get one from the departmental stores or Mothercare. To our surprise, the ball appears to be an illusive toy. We couldn’t find a single ball at Takeshimaya, Isetan, nor any of the Mothercare stores. We also tried looking for it at Toys R Us at Paragon mall and couldn’t find it either (perhaps because it’s not a big outlet unlike the one at Vivocity). There are lots of fancy gadgety toys which my husband thinks have higher margins for the merchants than the cheaper balls.

One day I was at a Daiso $2 store and saw a sensory ball lookalike which looks pretty fine to me. I had never played with the ones at infant care; perhaps they are more bouncy and provides better control. But at S$25 each (and I have to get a bag of 3 since individual ball is not available), I don’t think so. So of course I bought the one ar Daiso, and Buddy seemed happy with the S$2 ball, though I suspect he didn’t really know the difference at the tender age of 15 months old.
image
A month later, I was checking out the nearby neighborhood with Buddy, I saw toy balls available at a sundry store. I bought him 2 bouncy balls at S$2.90 each (one bright yellow floral print and the other green doggy print), and he got pretty excited even thought he had a little difficulty trying to hold them since they were rather big for him then. My husband showed him how to throw and bounce the balls, and he was fascinated.

Over the next couple of months there were more comments from the infant care teachers that Buddy was pretty good with balls for his age. He could kick, bounce, and spin the ball on the floor. I did notice then that when we took him to the indoor playgrounds, he would usually end up in the ball pits. He hardly played with the gadgety toys or cars, soldiers, the swing, despite my coaxing, and only took to the slide when I held him. He would take one of the small balls and spin it on the table.

image

Buddy in the ball pit during his first venture to an indoor playground

image

Ball pit again, at another indoor playground

Buddy’s ball skill was even known to the teachers in toddler class, before he went over this year. There are also many balls available to the toddlers, though some are flat (from my observation on the first day of class).

At home, Buddy received more balls. I got him another faux soccer ball, and last Christmas my brother gave him a netball as a gift. The netball is pretty bouncy but a little too big for him. During Chinese New Year, my father-in-law bought a bunch of balls for Buddy, including a bouncy ball, mini baseball, soccer ball and basketball (though these are not the real things). At that time, Buddy wasn’t playing much with them at home and I wondered if he had lost interest; my husband thought perhaps it was because he had been playing with balls in school.

It turns out that Buddy never lost his passion for the ball. When I took him to the outdoor playground and there was a ball left on the ground, Buddy would grab it. There were a couple of times when I had to make him return the ball, he would end up kicking and screaming. He might be practicing his ball skill in school because I can see he is getting better at it. Previously he just kicked the ball on the ground; but now he will throw it and kick it in mid- air. I think that’s pretty impressive for a 22 months old toddler. My husband believes it demonstrates that Buddy has pretty good eye, hand and leg coordination. He is also quite good with bouncing the ball. So we’re not sure if he’s going with soccer or basketball.

image

We finally found toy balls at the large Toys R Us outlet at Vivocity.

Now Buddy wouldn’t leave the house without a ball. Last weekend, as usual, he carried along a ball when we left the house, and wanted to bring it into the church, but my husband refused to let him do so. After mass, he was allowed to bring it along to the mall. At Giant supermarket, there was ample room at the toy department for him to play soccer. And he had lots of fun.

We had tried looking for toy balls for Buddy at Giant previously but couldn’t find any. This time there is a bin full of colorful balls. My husband found a mini soccer ball that he gave to Buddy, who loves it, and refused to put back despite me telling him he has lots of balls at home. I had to buy it and griped to my husband that it costs me $13! He pointed out that this is a real soccer ball albeit a mini one, unlike the fake ones at home, which even the favela kids would spit at. (Ok, so I’m cheap with balls.) So now this soccer ball is Buddy’s favorite and he wouldn’t leave the house without it. My husband told me that he is able to have much better control with this ball, which makes it more fun for him.
image

My husband is thinking of getting Buddy a mini basketball next, to add to his collection.
image

On my own with Buddy

Last Saturday, my husband had to be hospitalized after a wound he suffered got infected. He had seen the family doctor last Thursday and received antibiotics. The infection seemed to have gotten better until he did weight exercises that evening. He had to see the doctor the next day and was sent to the A&E (Accident and Emergency) of the nearest hospital, which is luckily less than 10 minutes’ drive from our home. He had to be hospitalized that day, and put on a stronger dosage of antibiotics while the attending doctors examined him for possibly surgery.

With my husband in the hospital, I had to care for Buddy on my own. Unfortunately it’s not easy for me to get a babysitter. For one thing, I don’t trust the babysitting service, not with a stranger. For another, Buddy doesn’t go with anyone else easily. So far we can only leave him alone with my in-laws for a few hours, but they don’t come to Singapore often. Buddy is of course happy in school, but day care is only available till 2pm on Saturday and close on Sunday. He is not as comfortable with my mom and I know if I leave him with her, he would wail like a banshee, least alone a friend of mine. So that left only me.

Perhaps it’s because Buddy has been by our sides since the moment he was born, barring a few days in the hospital due to jaundice when he was a few days old. Both my husband and I were his sole caregivers, until he went to infant care and now day care. And even then, for a long time, he was more clingy towards my husband. When he was younger, he could allow my in-laws to cuddle him for long. But now, if we are around, he prefers us over them. When one of us leaves, we have to have proper farewell, like we have to say “bye Alex” and he reciprocates. I guess this is not a bad thing since we are building a close relationship with him, and he knows we are there for him. Of course we also know that we cannot molly-coddle him. So it’s good that he is enjoying school a lot and having fun there.

Anyway during the weekend I was initially afraid that Buddy would miss my husband and be inconsolable. But turned out he was fine with only my company. I could feed him, play with him, bathe him and tuck him in bed without any problem. In fact for the past week or so, I’ve been able to bathe Buddy on my own without my husband’s help. For a long time since birth, Buddy didn’t enjoy bath time unlike many other babies. He would be wailing and struggling during bath and it required both my husband and I to bathe him. Even though we tried enticing him with rubber duckies and whale, they didn’t work.

A few months ago, I found out from the infant care teacher that, after the initial upset episodes, he was fine with bath time at the center. It turned out the shower facility is decorated with underwater world images. So that got me thinking about how I could decorate the bath room for him. We bathe Buddy in the bath tub, and so I decided to get lots of animal stickers including the water-themed ones, and stuck them on the tiled wall. they really help to get him interested to enter the tub. Now we have also given him a showel and pail, and when it is time for bath, we tell him “it’s water-play time!” (Buddy has water play in day care and he really enjoys it; and now bath time is associated with fun time.)
image

image

Buddy doesn't like this small tub and prefers the large one.

I took Buddy to visit my husband at the hospital, and Buddy was wary of him, dressed in the hospital garb with tube connecting to an IV drip. Buddy was resistant to my husband cuddling him, and even when we insisted he struggled when my husband held him. When we left, Buddy didn’t wail and was actually happy to go. At home, I skyped with my husband and Buddy was a little puzzled why papa appeared on the cell phone screen. But he still tried to communicate with him, despite not able to talk (at least not in sentences), even showing my husband his ball-kicking skill.

Thank God my husband was discharged on Monday. It is not easy to take Buddy out on my own. Buddy doesn’t like to be in a baby carrier since he was an infant, and we didn’t force it on him. We have been taking him everywhere in the stroller. Unfortunately for me, though I have a driving license, I can’t drive due to lack of practice. So going to the hospital was either taking the bus or taxi, and luckily it was a very short trip. And luckily too, there are food joints and supermarkets within walking distance from our home as well, so I could take Buddy there in the stroller. But I had to carry him when taking the public transport. With Buddy weighing at close to 12kg or 26 lbs, that is weight training for me. It was a relief when he was happy to walk from the lunch joint to the hospital, and allowed me to hold on to his hand.

That evening we went to pick up Buddy from day care. When he saw my husband, he cried out excitedly, “Papa, Papa!”, did a little jig before running toward my husband. Unfortunately, because my husband didnt bid Buddy farewell before he went to the hospital since he was in a hurry, Buddy got sensitive when my husband wasn’t around, like when he left the room. He started to wail as if he was abandoned. So my husband had to reassure him that he was around. I guess Buddy is still a baby and he needs to know we are not leaving him behind.

A relook at the cheongsams

Now that the cheongsam is available only at dedicated boutiques, I decided to revisit the online cheongsam shops to check out the designs, since I had not been focusing my attention on them during the past couple of months.

The Lady General hasn’t had any new collection since the last time I reviewed the dresses. Neither has The Happy Cheongsam. For the latter I understand from Min that the second collection is being tailored at the moment and will be launched in early April.

Our Bitsy Prints have been rather prolific, launching a few dresses every once or twice a month. Their latest collection featured their usual pleated skirt cheongsams with floral prints as well as a couple of new designs. The floral dresses are not very exciting.
image

The one below, Mafia Maiden, is one of the new ones, with butterfly sleeves, and OBP called it the little black dress of Cheongsam. To me, though, the model looks less like a mafia in the dress and more like a housekeeper or a school teacher, albeit a pretty one.
image

OBP also came out with what I call the “Cruise collection”, the nautical theme cheongsam dress, though there is only one deign.
image
I thought this dress “Sail Away” has a fun feel to it. I wanted to get it but, unfortunately, by the time I placed my order (which is not 40 minutes after the order-taking started), someone beat me to my size. In fact I noticed that the dresses are mainly sold out within a couple of days, if not within the day itself.

Lark and Peony launch new pieces rather regularly too, and they have not come up with any different designs since I checked out their site. I guess I am going to piss off O&L fans but I find the busy prints rather mumsy or risk being mistaken for tablecloth . I’m not sure who the target market is; if it’s older women in their 40′s or older, then the dresses are age appropriate (in that they reflect the age of the wearer).
image

image

image

There is a non floral print, which is better.
image

L&P also has a nautical-themed dress, but I find that the horizontal stripes on the top are a little too thick.
image

Next is Sissae, another prolific designer. Their collections veer toward formal wear, such as the one below with fluted skirt. To be honest I find the Sissae dresses rather pedestrian. To me, they lack the “wow” factor.
image

This is another cheongsam evening dress.
image

Sissae also offers cheongsam tops like this one made of French lace, paired with a separate organza skirt. I’m not sure if it’s the lighting or what but the whole get-up looks washed out.
image

This is another cheongsam top, which should never be worn like this. It just make you look frumpy.
image

However when paired with this cranberry dress, with the blouse tucked in, you get an elegant look.
image

image

Shanghai Tang has launched its Spring/Summer 2014 Collection and I must say it’s even better than the last one. There are a number of new designs with beautiful cut and fabrics that drape gorgeously over the bodice, exuding much elegance and sophistication.

I really like this jacquard pleated dress, which has an interesting collar. ST described the print on the top as modern floral; and indeed it is more stunning than the boring flower image, seen in a number of cheongsams above. The designer juxtaposed it against a plain skirt, instead of piling it on, making the dress really chic looking.
image

image

This is a mini dress with the same modern floral print. Though I’m not into really short cheongsam, the beautiful print, skillful cut and high quality material make it looks sophisticated. Note the shawl collar, a twist to the usual ones.
image

image

A sexy black dress with pleated triacetate top against a wool crepe skirt; this is truly an LBD for cheongsam.
image

This is a beautiful design, using French lace made from wool silk Ottoman. I like how the fabric forms these beautiful soft drapes around the front, like the dresses found on the ancient Greek sculptures.
image

An interesting modern cheongsam with 3/4 sleeves. (The model is wearing leather gloves.)
image
image

A color block dress for this collection, that exudes casual chicness, made from light wool. The dress also comes in charcoal color, but I prefer the fuchsia one.
image

Buddy and Wowo

I had mentioned in one of my earlier posts last year, when Buddy was 16 months old, he started to develop an interest in animals and still is. He is fascinated by birds, cats, fishes, and dogs in particular now. When he was still in infant care, the teachers taught the babies a song on animal sounds where a dog is “wowo”, pig is “oink oink” with a finger pushing up the nose tip, bee is “bzzzz” and lion is “roarrrrr” with both hands up and ready to pounce, etc. Since then Buddy has learned to say the names of some animals such as “bird”, duck”, “frog”, and so on. But he still insists on calling a dog “wowo”, despite me trying to correct him. (Yet he can call a baby dog “puppy”). Still “wowo” has been quite effective to make Buddy does what we want him to do. When my husband tries to take him home from the playground, he will tell Buddy, “Let’s go see Wowo.”

We have a neighbor who has a Westie, and whenever we walk past the house, Buddy will stop in front of the patio gate and point to it (with a faded Westie guard dog sign) and call out “wowo!” But the doggy has an aloof attitude and not taken in by Buddy. There are other pet dogs in the neighborhood, and one of them is this very friendly Japanese Spitz. Buddy is not afraid to pat her since she is the size of a toy dog. But when it comes to bigger dogs, he is more discerning, and will stand a short distance away from the reach of the dog and wave instead. He has charmed many dog owners and walkers when he waves hello and farewell to their dogs.

When Buddy turned one last year, I got him a doggy balloon. But he was too young to appreciate then, and kept hitting at it. When he was around18 months, I decided to introduce the doggy to him again, and took it back to the shop to refill with air. Buddy was so excited when he saw it, and took the “doggy” for a walk. It was quite a sight: Buddy wearing a doggie bib walking a balloon dog.

image

Good doggie!

image

Let's go for a walk

image

Run, doggy, run

image

Faster, doggy, faster!

image

Does doggy want a rest?

image

Let's go get a snack

In addition to the Skip Hop bib, we also got Buddy the doggy cutlery set last Christmas. My husband wanted to get the luggage as well but I thought it was too early for that. I’m planning to get him the bag when he is slightly older. Some weeks ago, we were at Ikea, and Buddy saw a big doggy soft toy, and he immediately hugged it when we gave it to him.

Buddy has eczema, and we had not bought any soft toy for him because of it. Whatever such toys I had in my possession were given away after Mamacita advised against him having them. But his eczema problem has since subsided and he doesn’t have flare up now, except when he has an infection. So we got him the cuddly doggy, which he slept with in his cot. Unfortunately, despite washing it, Buddy’s eczema started appearing on his cheeks. It looked like the soft toy is causing him to have dust allergy. So my husband took it away.

I also got Buddy a cushion with a picture of a Jack Russell terrier, which Buddy likes more than the soft toy. In fact he doesn’t even miss the doggy. Again the cushion is with him in the cot, which Buddy hugs every night when we put him to sleep.
image
My husband is thinking of getting Buddy a dog when he is older, and he will have to take some responsibility to care for it. Right now at 21 months he has to make do with the cushion and balloon.

A Cheongsam Revisit

I have to confess that I have run out of ideas for my blog. I have done a political post which apparently caused a hailstorm of rebuttals in other sites which put up the link to my post, but very few came to my blog to comment. I could do two posts on Buddy before that but that might be a little boring for the readers. I have wanted to do a follow up post on the cheongsams, but unfortunately there are not much materials available since the dress has largely disappeared from the store now that Chinese New Year is over. I only managed to find a few from Miz Apparels, Ong Shunmugam, George’s Couture and Hana, so I will show whatever I have, as well as a couple of designs that I didn’t put up pre CNY.

Hana has the usual short-sleeved floral-print cheongsam, which is nothing exciting though it’s still better than the one from George’s Couture.
image

This long matronly-looking dress from George’s Couture is honestly pedestrian.
image

Hana is currently having a sale for its cheongsams at either 40% or 20% off. Here are their signature dresses with pleated bottom. I thought the one below looks rather pasty. And why is there a butterfly brooch on the waist?
image

As for this dress, you might be mistaken for wearing your table cloth out.
image

At last, something nice. I think the below matching mother and daughter cheongsams are rather pretty.
image
image

Ong Shunmugum has it’s signature lace overlay cheongsam with peplum, which would be appropriate for granny. Yes I think the dress ages the wearer.
image

Then there is also the usual straight cut fitting design.
image

image

Close up of the faux buttons

Talking about Ong Shunmugum. Not long ago I was at my usual alteration shop at Hong Leong building, which is also where OS is located, and there was a plus size lady in the above OS cheongsam with a OS staff there. (I found out that OS always bring their customers to the shop for alteration service. OS is like Tong Tong and My Mandarin Collar, where the making of the cheongsam is outsourced and there is no in-house alteration service. This is a problem because it may require numerous alterations before the dress fits well.) Anyway back to this lady, she looked like she was squeezed into this cheongsam, and honestly the first thing that came to my mind was “Bak Chang” (rice dumpling in Hokkien and zongzi in Chinese).
Rice Dumpling

I know I sound insulting, but women have to realize that they should dressed according to their body shape. And the straight-cut figure-hugging cheongsam, which unfortunately revealed the layers of fat along her waist, is really inappropriate for her. I overheard there and then that she wanted to alter the dress bigger. I am not sure if there is any point in doing that. She is better off getting another design like a cheongsam with flare bottom or pleated skirt. Alternatively, she can get inspiration from the 1920s straight cut loose cheongsam with bell bottom sleeves, possibly changing the design to a narrow A-line dress.
image

This pre-CNY dress from Seven, that I didn’t put up previously, is also an appropriate design for plus size women. Instead of bright red, they can consider colors such as midnight blue, royal purple or maroon red.
image

image

Details of sleeve which has a black bow attached

Another pre-CNY dress, which is from Allure, but not for plus size women. Lucky for the short length, otherwise the print makes it look auntie-like.
image

Unsupporting You (Updated)

l don’t usually  write about politics in my blog, unless it is something really significant. And this time it is because l want to state for the record that I am unsupporting the Workers’ Party.

Those readers who have been following my blog since the beginning would know that I supported them during the last General Election. I went to their rally at Bedok Stadium, bought their merchandise, and of course voted for them. That night, during the announcement of the results, I was there at Hougang stadium to show my support. It was an amazing experience; there was a feeling of patriotism that I never felt before, and most present would swear that we were all unified as Singaporeans then, something that not even the National Day Parade could invoke in me.

I had a lot of hope for WP, especially for Chen Show Mao, one of the elected Members of Parliament for the Aljunied GRC. His credentials are impeccable; better than most cabinet ministers of the ruling government, including the PM. When he gave his maiden speech in Parliament, I was even more impressed and was expecting to see credible challenges to the ruling party. I thought Mao would be able to form think tanks to provide alternative government policies, and that he would be able to attract talents of similar caliber to join WP to set up a shadow government. Once that happened, WP would be able to form a cabinet team if they took over power. Yes, I held the naive hope that the opposition party would take over the rein from the ruling PAP in the next election, or the one after. Very naive, but I guess I got emotional over the wrong policies that the government has been implementing for the past 10 years, and wasn’t rational in my thinking. All I was concerned then was that we needed a change in government, without thoughts of the consequences.

Today there are still a number of opposition supporters who are calling for a change in government in the next GE supposedly in 2016. But not me. It’s not that I have switched support to the ruling party because I’m still not going to, but I will not support WP if they contest again in my constituency which is very likely. I’ve been disappointed with the WP’s performance in Parliament for some time. Mao hasn’t said anything significant since that first speech. The other WP MPs are even worse. There have not been a single alternative policy paper presented; and when important issues are discussed in Parliament, other than superficial differences, the WP MPs mostly agreed with the PAP proposals. Case in point, the ministerial compensation. In fact the quality of political discourse in Parliament is appalling.

During these past two years since 7 WP MPs were elected into parliament and 2 non-elected MPs joined them, there have been a number of faux pas and scandals, but like other supporters I had excused them because they were newbies (except for the Secretary-General, Low Thia Khiang), booby traps laid by PAP, and tried to rationalize that such problems are inevitable. And I made the mistake of thinking that since PAP has problems and scandals, we shouldn’t get too hanged up over those from WP. But I have since realized that I had allowed emotion to cloud my judgements; and I meant the emotion of disliking the PAP to the extend of not thinking clearly. Why should we attack the ruling party viciously whenever there are any lapses or problems, and yet excuse those from WP? Are we settling for an opposition party without regards to the competency of the leadership team because we hate the PAP? Should we have a lower expectations of the opposition? Isn’t this a case of having double standards? Seriously if WP is going to be PAP-like, why should we accept an unproven wannabe?

Also during these two years since the last election, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) has been publishing alternative policy papers on health care and housing. A number of people dismissed them, including the WP supporters, calling them useless since nobody reads them. Well, at least SDP has a think tank of professionals to propose alternative ideas, as a counter to those from PAP. This is what an opposition party should do, not just being a highly paid town councillors, which is what WP MPs seem to be. And the same goes for most of the PAP MPs as well. Without such alternatives I don’t know whether WP has credible proposals, or even know what their views on the current economic structure are. People may not agree with the SDP papers but at least they are worth a debate.

The last straw from WP is the recent audit report on its combined town council of Aljunied, Hougang and Punggol East, when its appointed auditors expressed a disclaimer of opinion on the financial statement and refused to sign off on it completely because of lack of information. There are 13 issues raised in the report, such as the town council didn’t provide details to the auditors of the project management service fee paid to related party, the inability to determine the accuracy and validity of various items in the accounts, the unexplained differences of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) payable of more than S$500,000, and the Town Council didn’t deposit monies into the Sinking Fund, etc.

This is the second year the auditor has issued the disclaimer. For the first year, I guess I can still excuse the Town Council since there would be lots of mess after taking over from the ruling party. But you would think the WP MPs have learned since, and able to better prepare for the audit the following year. Yet, this is not the case. The Chairman of the party, Sylvia Lim, who is also one of the MPs, claimed that the issues raised by the auditors were due to handover problems. But not depositing monies into the Sinking Fund, as required by law, has nothing to do with handover issue. Now these monies are conservancy charges paid by the residents in the constituencies under WP, as well as grants given by Ministry of National Development, basically taxpayers’ money, and used for capital investment within the constituencies. Hence the stringent audit and requirements.

In the statement issued by Sylvia Lim, she admitted to the lapse and claimed that the issue had since been rectified and no monies were lost. Whether the monies were lost is a different matter. What is more important is why were the monies not deposited in the first place. It’s not as if WP didn’t know when the audit would be conducted. It’s amazing that the supporters take Sylvia Lim’s words for it and don’t think there is anything wrong. They don’t realize that the lapse is like a company President not transferring the sale proceeds into the bank account. And only after auditors flagged the problem did the President then issued a statement that monies have since been deposited. But what happened to those monies in the first place? And even if they were sitting in some safe somewhere, something is wrong with the accounting/financial process. WP has many years of experience managing the Hougang constituency and so should be aware of the Sinking Fund. If they had hired an idiotic finance person, then it also points to poor leadership. It just doesn’t reflect well on the party.

I am also disappointed with the WP supporters, who don’t seem to be any different from the PAP ones. Both sides are hurling vitriol at each others, and bringing up the failings of the other party as if they justify the problems or mistakes made within their own. (Though for the PAP, it’s really about the problems or lapses with the government/public service, and not so much the party.) The blind faith in their political masters is scary, everything is accepted at face value. The supporters don’t even question the validity of the statements made or even look deeply into the issues raised. Sylvia Lim insinuated in her statement that the qualified opinion of the WP audit was better than the adverse opinion given for the audit on the financial statement of a government’s organization, People’s Association (PA). (To me this smacks of throwing a red herring out as a distraction.) Firstly the PA report was signed off by the auditor but they gave it an adverse opinion because PA didn’t provide financial information on its operating companies, which is like General Electric company not providing financial statement on its subsidiary, GE Healthcare, to its auditors. (BTW, GE doesn’t have to do it since the subsidiary is not listed, and in fact many conglomerates provide a consolidated statement.) From what I understand, these operating companies of PA are self sustainable and don’t receive grants from the government. In view of this, the Ministry of Finance exempted them from having to provide financial statements to the auditors, though you can obtain them from ACCRA, the business/company registry board, for a fee. But since it’s stated in the auditing procedure to provide the information, the auditors are basically following the books. So in the case of PA, the auditors are clear what the issue is and hence they are able to sign off the report. But for the town council of WP, the auditors don’t even have the full picture of the accounts and naturally refuse to sign off. If the town council is a listed company, it’s shares would be suspended from trading, and shareholders would demand to know what the hell is going on. Well, the Ministry of Finance has instructed the Auditor-General to investigate the accounts, so let’s see.

What I hope to see in a political party is one where it’s leadership is above board and set an example of being transparent and ethical. I don’t see this in WP. By the way it’s ridiculous to issue a challenge to the corrupt investigation bureau or police to investigate the WP. There are actions which may not be illegal, but are unethical.

(Updated on 26 Feb)
I didn’t explain earlier why I don’t see the possibility of a change in government or hope to see one happening in the near future. There are many opposition supporters who are calling for this without really understanding what they wish for. They reason that with the current inadequacy and incompetency of the incumbent government, we should give the other guys a chance. After all the PAP leaders were given a chance in the 1960s and they did a good job. Well, you are dead wrong with this thinking. Yes the pioneer leaders did well, but Singapore economy then was much less complex. Now, you can describe the economy as a finely – tuned F1 car. Yes Singapore is very small In size, but its economy is very complex. Any change to one policy like housing will affect the others because they are all interlinked. In fact any changes have to be enacted in a calibrated manner and in parallel.

So do you think any Ah Beng or Ah Seng can drive an F1 car? If we want to kick out the PAP, we’ve better find a Sebastian Vettel to take over the driver seat, and not just having him alone, we need the entire Renault F1 team. Are there people of such caliber ready to take over? If we disregard this criteria, we would end up with a situation of either the car won’t start or it would crash in one nanosecond. Honestly, we have to ask ourselves, can we take this risk. I’m not happy with the PAP government too, and I’m pissed with their dictatorial rein that crushes any political opponents whom they regard as threats. The current lack of an alternative is due in a large part to them, though Singaporeans are also to blame for not standing up in the early days for their political rights. But I guess, most Singaporeans then were lowly educated and had no idea they needed to have a strong voice in politics. So we should be careful what we wish for. But it is not too late now for the people to find their voices and to demand for policies that would benefit the people in the sustainable manner. We just have to do it in a rational way.

Buddy’s diet

My husband called me a “semi-Tiger mom”, because I get a little obsessive over Buddy’s diet. Initially Buddy was mainly having organic food. But the older he gets, the more he wants to have the same food as us. Now he isn’t as enthusiastic over the organic Meal-bowls from Happy Baby brand that I ordered from iHerb. Nor is he keen on the baby cereal with puree for breakfast, also from iherb. He wants rice or porridge for dinner, and bread or adult crunchy cereal for breakfast. Maybe it’s because he has been having the organic food since he started on solid, and got sick of it. In fact he doesn’t really like gooey baby food now that he has become a toddler; he prefers food with texture. It may also be due to the food at day care, which is different from what I used to feed him, and so it’s something different.

So now, I get Buddy brown rice or multigrain bread, and for the spread l gave him either butter, organic jam, or kaya (a local peranakan spread that is made from coconut milk and pandan leaves). Buddy gets to enjoy even Hokkaido butter and home-made kaya from Chinta Manis. The day care serves the kids white bread three days a week, and I rather Buddy has the healthier version, especially on Thursday when the bread has margarine spread, which is worst since there’s trans fat in margarine. (I’m thinking of checking with the supervisor about the margarine.) On these days, I prepare breakfast for him.

I know it’s setting Buddy apart from the other toddlers because the other moms don’t do that. But I figure they are probably too young to be conscious about it. Initially I wasn’t keen on Buddy given birthday cake when the toddlers celebrate their birthdays at day care; imagine the sugar intake! But a teacher told me that during one occasion Buddy was given porridge as a substitute while other kids were having cake, and he kept looking at them. My husband thinks I’m being a food nazi, and poor Buddy is being deprived. So I relented and approved a small slice without cream. At least the day care prepares meals with vege for the kids.

It’s not that I enjoy being a nazi, but I just want to make sure that Buddy has nutritious food. For dinner, I try to give Buddy vegetables with a little minced meat with rice or porridge. It’s not easy to find vegetables in Chinese food suitable for toddlers. At least for Western cuisine, there are carrots, peas, pumpkins, bell peppers and sweet corn. For Chinese food, I try to find the soft pickled vegetables for him. I am not stopping the meal-bowls entirely but alternating them with rice or porridge, so that he has a balanced diet. On those days when no suitable vege is available, he gets fruits for fiber. He especially loves papaya, dragon fruit (particularly the red one), mandarin orange and persimmon. He and my husband (who has similar likings) tend to OD on the fruits. The other night, after dinner, both father and son sat in front of the TV, and polished off 3 mandarin oranges between them. There was one time Buddy had so much papaya that his feet and hands turned a yellowish tone, and a teacher wondered whether there was anything wrong with him. He used to like bananas (which he calls “nanas”), but got sick of it now after we kept gaving it to him when he was younger (it is one of the few suitable unpureed fruits for a baby). We think it’s good that he has a love for fruits, and hopefully it’ll continue as he gets older.

It’s not easy to find suitable toddle good when eating out. I find that the kiddy meals tend to consists of fried food, like the chicken nuggets and fries are some of the main staples. Honestly I don’t get it why the restaurants can’t offer tasty and yet healthy version. Parents don’t realize that fat and sugar can be addictive, and a combination of both is almost like cocain. I won’t advocate cutting both completely from the diet because you do get natural sugar from fruits and vege, but compared to processed food, the amount is much less. I do accept the occasional sweet or savory treats are alright, but these should only be occasional and not part of the daily diet of a kid.

Luckily there are some restaurants which do offer healthy food for toddlers, despite not having a kiddy menu. At Din Tai Fung, there are steamed minced vegetable and pork dumplings and chicken soup. I don’t give Buddy the whole dumpling, instead I break it open and mix the filling with steamed rice for him, and add in the chicken soup. It’s nutritious food for a kid. DTF is also rather child friendly, and they offer kiddy utensils which you can buy as well. Buddy likes the spoon so much, after a meal there, that he refused to give it up. So now we have a DTF spoon at home, which he uses often for his meals.

Another good place to bring your toddlers for tasty and nutritious food is the Okinawan diner, Nirai Kanai, located at basement of Liang Court mall. They served a rice dish with soft vege and chopped chicken which is very tasty, and you have it with a seafood tofu soup or stewed goard with minced pork. We love the food there, where vege is a big part of the menu. My husband remarked that is why the Okinawans live such healthy long life. The cuisine is a fusion of both Chinese and Japanese. The place is a must-try.

image

Buddy enjoying his meal at DTF.

The making of a cheongsam video

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from a multimedia journalist, Razinah, from Razor TV, the media arm of Singapore Press Holding, which publishes the major newspapers and magazines in the country. She asked if I would be interested to participate in the filming of a cheongsam program for the Chinese New Year, which is shown on the Internet (and not on TV). They wanted an interview with a cheongsam enthusiast. To be honest, my first reaction was to decline because I didn’t think I could show my face to the public. In fact even if it was a print interview, I wasn’t plan on getting myself photographed. To me, it was like exposing myself, and I wasn’t sure if I could take the publicity.

I told my husband about it, before I responded to Razinah. Contrary to me, however, my husband felt the publicity would be good for my blog and might increase readership, so I should go for it. After all, who knows when I might get another chance. I thought he had a point, and after thinking about it, I accepted the video interview.

Razinah asked if I could do the filming the following week, which was the days before CNY and I proposed the eve when I was on leave. I also asked how long it would take since I had to pick up Buddy from day care which only opened for half day. She replied that it would be 1-2 hours and likely to be completed after an hour. She had also earlier mentioned that I had to model or show some of my cheongsams. I thought that was pretty alright; I only had to wear a dress and showed the others to the camera, and it would likely be a straightforward process.

As the date drew closer, Razinah started to make more requests, like I had to bring along 5 dresses and model them for the camera, and I should also put on makeup and wear heels. After further probing, I found out that the filming would take 2 hours, if not more; and I was supposed to pose for the camera in my dresses. To be honest I was tempted to say forget about it. But since I had already given my words, I had to follow through. But I asked Razinah what kind of poses were they expecting because I wasn’t going to do anything cheesy, like no way was I going to do some cat walk. She assured me that it would be nicely done (though I wasn’t so sure then.)

On the morning of the filming, I arrived at SPH building on time. It’s a huge complex and frankly I’ve no idea why they require such a large building when no printing work is done at this location. Anyway Razinah came to the reception to meet me; and I realized she is pretty young, probably newly graduated, which explains why she seemed rather raw. In fact she later revealed that she had only joined SPH for a few months. She took me to the studio which was rather cluttered with furniture and various props, and introduced me to the crew. They, on the other hand, are more experienced, and was able to guide me during the filming.

I wore the Bitsy Prints cheongsam to the shoot, since it’s more casual and the flare bottom makes it easy to move around. Separately I brought along four cheongsams, three from Blum and one from Tong Tong. Initially I had wanted to include one from Miz Apparels and another from Lady Xiang, but I was wearing my orange platforms and didn’t think the green Lady Xiang cheongsam would go well with it, and the MA dress was at the laundry. The camera guy asked me to show all the cheongsams against the backdrop to see which would go best against it on camera. It turns out the orange and blue cheongsam with Japanese motif of bonsai from Blum was the standout dress. So I changed into that for the interview. There was no proper changing room; instead I had to go to some office room to do so, but I guess since the company isn’t in the broadcast business, the makeshift set-up is to be expected.

Next was the OBP dress, a modern design with flare bottom, which I had to hold the skirt to do a slow twirl. So far so good then, until I was told we were leaving the studio to continue filming outside. I was brought to the Executive office part of the building where the CEO office is located. There is restricted access to the office of the CEO and the executive management team. A door, that requires pass code, separates their offices from the rest. I wonder why the tight security, are they afraid of some sort of attack? Anyway I digress. It turns out the reason we were there, or least outside the door, was because the area is the nicest part inside the building, other than the reception and the outdoor Koi pond. This was where I was filmed wearing another Blum dress, a straight-cut cheongsam with a modern floral painting print. The crew brought along a chair, tables and other props like teapot and cups. I was told to sit down and sip the tea (which was actually water), and pretend that I was having a leisurely afternoon while enjoying the scenery outside. I was trying not to laugh while I stared at the wall, imaging that I was looking at cars passing by (suggested by the crew).

The camera guy (think he was the producer) was trying to guide me to pose like the Maggie Cheung character in the movie ‘In The Mood For Love”. So I had to stand with my back against the wall, butt sticking out and one foot on the toes. A crew told me to remove my glasses to see how I looked, and decided that I looked better without them. Then there were various poses of me in akimbo, and I got a little dismayed when I was told to look up at the camera and smile or do a slow turn. This was getting to be cheesy! I thought I only had to sit down or stand up showing the dresses. All the while Razinah kept assuring me that the end result would look good, though I was doubtful. After this shooting was done, I had to have another change where there would be more interview, followed by an outdoor shooting at the Koi pond. It was already close to two hours by then, and I told Razinah that I wouldn’t have time for the fifth dress. I wore the black Blum dress with embroidery details on the collar, sleeves and hem for the final filming. I passed over the Tong Tong cheongsam since there are too many buttons along the bodice to do up.

Over at the pond, I was told to stroll along it without glasses. (The crew checked with me beforehand to make sure I could somewhat see where I was walking; after all I might fall into the pond.) I had to eat my words about the catwalk as I followed the crew’s instructions. Thought it wasn’t exactly strutting down the fashion walkway, I was still awkward about it. The crew even tried to shoo the fishes to me so that they were in the background view of the camera. But I bared my teeth and grinned, since it would wrap up soon. By the time we were done, 2.5 hours had gone by, and I only showed four dresses.

Razinah told me she would let me know when the video would be put up. To be honest, I was afraid it would be rather cheesy, what with all the posings, and I didn’t think I would check it out then. I asked Razinah how she found out about me. It turned out she was doing research on cheongsam after receiving this assignment, and found my blog. She also tried contacting this other blogger, Ms Glitzy, who also has a passion for cheongsam, and the author of the book “In The Mood for Cheongsam”. At the time of my filming they hadn’t responded to her.

I told my husband about the poses and he said that was to be expected. If it was only me sitting or standing while talking about the cheongsams, it would be so boring. Oh well, guess it was an eye opening experience for me. Anyway last Friday, Razinah sent me the link. I didn’t have time to look at it and forwarded to my husband instead. He likes it and thinks it’s better than expected. After I checked it out, I’ve to agree with him. Though I still think those scenes of me smiling at the camera and making slow turns seem a little cheesy, the overall effect is not bad. But one thing though, I disagree that I look better without my glasses. So, here’s the link to the video. If it doesn’t play when you open it, click on the link “play all related videos”.

http://razor.tv/video/718060/the-cheongsam-love-affair