What’s up with the cheongsam?

Things have been a little slow with new designs and launches lately. Only Joli Pretty had another new launch, which happened last Thursday. Our Bitsy Prints will be coming out with their next collection in late November, which is very likely next Thursday. Blum hasn’t launched their Chinese New Year designs yet, probably scheduled for next month.

Anyway Joli Pretty added some festive cheer to its latest collection – the Christmas prints are found in two of the dresses. To be honest, I don’t think that is such a good idea. Would you wear a Christmas theme dress for Chinese New Year or even middle of the year? 

One of them is this green Christmas tree dress called “Be Home For Christmas”, which must be inspired by the song “I’ll be home for Christmas” by Michael Buble. (Not my favorite song, I prefer “It’s gonna be a cold cold Christmas” by Dana. ) I call it the Christmas tree dress because it looks a little like one.

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Home for Christmas

A cutesy cheongsam is this Kawaii Kimono dress, one of two with Japanese-themed prints. It’s sold out, which is not surprising. But the design is the usual flare skirt, nothing exciting.
JP - Kawaii Kimono

There are a couple of pretty dresses, like this turquoise blue cheongsam with tulip skirt. The top print reminds me of the Gucci logo. I also like that there are side pockets sewn in. I’m now a fan of dresses with pockets, which is such a convenient.
JP - Tulip Love

JP has a flamenco design which I like a lot, but not the print combination which I don’t think they match. This dress doesn’t have any pockets, and I believe it is due to the design. I also prefer for it to have a slightly higher collar. (I should return to Studio 55 to see if the flamenco dress is still available.)

Vintage Darling

Vintage Darling

Anyway I bought a dress from their previous collection, which I didn’t spot when it was launched, called “Green Forest”. I will review the dress in my next post once I have it in my hands.

As usual, I have taken pictures of cheongsams on window display while moving around. This is a beautiful red lace top from Hana. I wouldn’t pair it with the long pencil skirt though, the whole get-up looks matronly. Instead it would go well with a fitting dark blue jeans (without holes please).
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A boutique, located at Raffles X-change, called “Gorgeous, Gorgeous” offer vintage looking dresses with flouncy petticoats and some cheongsams. The latters tend to be the usual straight-cut fitting form, nothing spectacular. A lace dress is shown below; I find it doesn’t look quite as elegant as the simple lace cheongsams from Hana.
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A high shoulder cheongsam, with boring print.
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I spotted these two dresses on the window display of Ong Shunmugam boutique. The green dress showcases a beautiful interpretation of a modern cheongsam. I find it looks really vibrant and sexy. When the design is good, it is really good.
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I guess this light grey dress is for the elderly women?
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For those looking forward to Our Bitsy Prints’ next collection, here is a sneek peek to a couple of rather pretty dresses.
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Adhoc ramblings

I celebrated my 43rd birthday last week in a quiet manner. Well, as per my usual practice, I took a day off to have a break since Buddy was in daycare. My husband and I went to Pasarbella at the Grandstand which we hadn’t been for a long time. We felt it was a little cramped to take Buddy along, especially with him in a stroller. Perhaps because we had brunch at Jones earlier, but I didn’t have enough tummy room to indulge. Still we ordered paella, salad, and my husband had the crackling roast pork. The place is big on meat, you see it available everywhere. We’re surprised there’re not a lot more salads available.

Anyway I didn’t get any gift for myself for my birthday, instead, I bought Christmas gifts for Buddy and his cousins. Yep, it seemed a little early, but I enjoy getting presents for the kids rather than for myself.  In fact, I have no desire to get a bag, shoes, or jewelry. Even for clothes, the only thing I’ll consider getting is cheongsam. I actually find it quite fun to shop for pressies at woodwould, a quirky shop selling vintage toys, trinkets, planners, and accessories etc, located at Mandarin Gallery. We showed Buddy what we were getting for him, and luckily he didn’t clamor to open up the pressies. We told him he could only open them on Christmas Day.

Lately, in the news, there was significant publicity on a satirical group (or what some would describe as a mega trolling group), SMRT (Ltd) Feedback. I first found out about it after a couple of friends liked its FB posts on vigilantism against a hateful cellphone shop owner. Only then did I catch on to the news of how a poor Vietnamese tourist was scammed and humiliated. Briefly, this man, a factory worker who only earned $200 a month, came to Singapore on a vacation with his girlfriend, and wanted to buy an iPhone 6 for her. He was offered S$960 for it at this shop, Mobile Air, which he paid for it. Then the seller asked if he wanted warranty for the phone, which he affirmed, and was made to sign on an invoice. Following this, he was told he had to pay S$1500 for the warranty! He was shocked and declined it, but the seller told him he wouldn’t get his phone if he didn’t pay for it.  The Vietnamese man got desperate and went down on his knees and begged for the refund of the phone, while being filmed by the staff, who laughed at him. They told him they would only offer half the money back.

This said shop is located at Sim Lim Square, which is known for selling electronics, computers and cell phone products, but is also notorious for being a place teeming with fraudsters. The article from Vulcan post (in the above link) stated that the place is rife with negative reviews in Tripadvisor. But for those tourists who come from non-English speaking countries, it’s understandable that they might not have caught wind of the warnings. The bloody shop was also in the news a few days earlier for refunding a Chinese tourist S$1,010 in coins, after being ordered to do so by the Small Claims Tribunal.

SMRT Feedback then launched a vigilante movement against the shop and it’s owner, forcing the shop to close for several days (according to netizens, it reopened today). You can read all about the actions in this Vulcan post which includes an interview with SMRT Feedback. By the way, for those not familiar with Singapore, SMRT is the tube transport operator in the country, and of course, this is not the real feedback unit of the operator. As mentioned, this is a satirical (or troll) group, and apparently set up after a massive train disruption happened in December 2011. No one knew who the person or people behind it, though the administrator/s claimed there were four of them, one from each racial groups in Singapore: Malay, Chinese, Indian and Eurasian.

Since getting to know of the group, I’ve been following the posts on Facebook, and have to admit that I was intrigued and impressed by their investigative works of digging out information on the shop owner. Sure, I know some do not condone the vigilante behavior (like my husband who thinks that you can’t resort to chaos to counter chaos when there is still law and order within the country). I personally feel the bastard shop  owner deserves the “lynching”, since consumers here get almost no protection and rights. Though we have a Consumer Association or CASE, it is practically useless and should be closed down.

Singaporeans are aware of the scam tactics employed by a number of shops at Sim Lim Square, and this is because many were cheated previously. Now that the people have wised up, the bloody shops turn their targets to tourists, who are also easier to scam. When the public read about the plight suffered by the Vietnamese tourist, there was a lot of empathy and anger. A good Samaritan used crowdfunding to raise funds for the Vietnamese man, and within an hour, he reached his target. But the bloody shop was still operating because, apparently no law was broken, and so when SMRT Feedback took matters into its hands to punish the owner, many cheered and supported the action. I admit I was one of them, and I understand the feeling of the mob.

The locals are pissed that nothing has been done to these errant shops despite the numerous complaints in the past. And much vitriol was leveled at CASE, which, for unknown reasons, when it was called in to mediate on behalf of the Vietnamese, it resulted in the poor man getting even less refund from the shop.  (CASE, is also an organization which the locals avoid because of its notoriety for being useless.) Until and unless there are serious regulations in place to protect consumer rights, I think such vigilante acts will receive widespread support.

On an unrelated note, the other day, I read an FB  post written by a mother who crowed about her daughter graduating from college at the tender age of 17, after she left the Singapore education system which failed her. The article was  a criticism of the education system, of how  the school teacher didn’t bother to teach and  left it to the tuition teacher. It started when she decided to prep the daughter for the primary 5 science exam the day before it, and was shocked to find out she didn’t know the answer to a simple question. The daughter told her because she was in the top class, the students were expected to know their stuff, and the teacher just put the answers to assignment questions on the board. The little girl was also afraid to ask questions for fear of getting reprimanded for interrupting the class. The mother also revealed that she had not bothered to attend any parent-teacher-meetings previously because she wasn’t interested to know where her kid ranked vis-à-vis others, and she thought she could entrust her child’s academic development to the school since she didn’t believe in tuition. Anyway after realizing the problem, she took her daughter out of school and home-schooled her, and only returned to school to take the PSLE (Primary School Leaving Exam). I presume (though this wasn’t mentioned) that the girl was sent overseas after that and hence able to graduate at 17 (which is not possible in Singapore).

What surprised me is the naivety of the mother, that she was completely clueless of the Singapore education system, and also completely hands-off in her child’s developments until she realized the problem at the last minute.   I know I sound harsh, but I would call that irresponsible parenting. If they were from a poor family where both parents had to work long hours to make ends meet, I would understand  the predicament and be sympathetic. But this is obviously not the case, so how could the mother not monitor the progress of her child and wash her hands off any responsibilities?  Parents cannot just push the education of  their children to schools and expect them to emerge as top scorers. The teacher is responsible for a class of at least 35 kids, on top of administrative duties and many other stuff, and you expect him/her to take care of your child’s learning entirely? Parents, it’s your job to understand your children and their progress in school. You should inculcate the love for learning right from the beginning, and develop self-motivation and discipline in him/her. You should also encourage your kid to be assertive, to speak up, to confide in you when there’re problems or issues. You don’t outsource this responsibility. This mother didn’t even realize that her daughter was also bullied in school until much later.

Thank God the girl emerged fine from the negative experience. Though, to be honest, I am not so sure about the early college graduation, because one would have to wonder how matured she really is. Many top secondary schools make their students go through the process of tough competition, tons of project works, and learning to work independently and in a team, on top of academics, over the four-year period, followed by another two years of junior college (senior high in the US), because they will face the same challenges at top colleges. If I’m not wrong, Harvard, Yale, MIT, Stanford or other Ivies don’t accept students who are not of college age, because the environments are ultra competitive and complicated. Even at 18, some students struggle to cope, least alone the young teenagers. You are facing some really scary smart kids here who are also damn good at strategizing (or manipulations). You have better be equally good or have some sort of support behind you.

The truth is education is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to spend time preparing for the 42km race. It also doesn’t matter how long it takes, but as long as you finish  it, that is what matters. So parents should ensure their kids build a strong foundation starting at a young age , no matter how long it takes, and with a strong base, the sky’s the limit.

I am ultimately responsible for Buddy. If he doesn’t do well in school or he turns out to be a scumbag, I would have to reflect upon myself and ask how I have failed as a mother.

Pushing the cheongsam envelope (update)

When it comes to pushing the envelope, there are sone designers who try to create avant garde cheongsams so that their designs stand out. Sometimes the results look fabulous, and sometimes they just look plain weird.

The Happy Cheongsam
THC is launching its 7th collection this week, which is inspired by the tuxedo. The same inspiration that sparked Yves Saint Laurent to create the first female pantsuit, Le Smoking, in the 1960′s, which is still so iconic to this day. In fact, many years ago,  I fell in love with the look and got myself a pencil pantsuit as well. While wearing it, I was trying hard not to look like I was sweating like a pig inside. (Hell! It’s really not suitable for Singapore’s humid weather, and you have to be in air con environment, that resembles the Arctic, to look cool in it.)

Anyway, THC is launching a smaller collection with only 4 dresses and a top. The one that caught my attention is “The Chap”, a sophisticated design with whimsical bird print on the bib.
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I love the paring of the playful aviary print with the dominant black color. It is neither a Tux nor cheongsam, but both, and done with a feminine flare. It is a stand out.

THC has a flirty “Pink Tux” dress for those who prefer a softer color. This design is not as creative as the one above, but still looks good for those looking for a pretty dress to wear for Christmas, Chinese New Year, or special dates.
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Then there is the interesting “Porcelain Bow”, which has the “Tai Tai” (lady of leisure) look about it.
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The weakest design of the lot is the “Girly Tux”. This comes in separate top and skirt, and the look is nothing new. But the color pairing is rather youthful and chirpy.
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Finally there is the cheongsam top, or maybe a Tuxedo vest? I like the design, which is rather smart-looking, but I’m not keen on the color combo. Would have been better with black button and stripes against blue.
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The sizing doesn’t come any bigger than L size, and I would urge those, who want a bigger size, to seriously comsider whether you would look good in it. The collection will be available this Friday at 8.00pm Singapore time. Though on THC website, it is indicated as sold out. Ming told me she is having some problems with the platform and trying to fix them. But rest assured that nothing is sold out yet, and sale is on a first come first serve basis at launch time.

Shanghai Tang
Shanghai Tang is known for pushing the envelope in its cheongsam designs. It celebrated its 20th anniversary in Shanghai on 22 October, and launched a limited edition imperial collection for evening wear. I have to say that the dresses are absolutely gorgeous, and expectedly the prices are sky high to match them.

I love this beautiful orange lace dress with pleats on the lower front. Because it has a modern vibe to it, the black stockings and gladiator heels add a sexy grittiness to the lacy femininity. This is a stunner!
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The other favorite is this organza and lace dress with geometric pattern on the lace. It has an interesting gather on the front waist, and a va va voom egg-shaped opening at the back. This is an absolute head-turner.
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Ong Shunmugam
I know Ong Shunmugam also tries pushing the envelope in redefining the cheongsam. I am late in the news, but I had just checked out the FW14 collection (launched during mid year) in the Her World website, and have mixed feelings about it. It’s called “Civilization and Madness”, and indeed some of the jarring mix of prints and cut made the poor cheongsam looks like it needs psychiatric help. Case in point is this dress below. Maybe the designer got her secondary inspiration from the Dayak tribe of Borneo, but I seriously am not sure if even the natives can look elegant in this.
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Luckily there are other designs which show some sanity, like these below. I particularly find the one with the peplum a display of talent in the way the prints are mixed and matched.
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The Her World magazine gushed about how the collection demonstrated that Ong Shunmugam had designed clothes that flatter a woman’s natural curves, and not just for the stick thin models. My first reaction to this was “what the hell are you talking about!”. If this is true, how come no pudgy models or even real women were used for the fashion show? Looking at the designs, other than the dress below, I’m not sure how a lady with a tummy or flabby arms would look good in any of them. This description about flattering a woman’s curves is just bullshit, because you don’t see a single real woman walking the runway in any major fashion shows, least alone the minor ones. And for that matter, would any ladies buy the clothes if they see real women on the runway? I guess, it’s human nature to want to live in fantasy.
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Sneak Peek
Our Bitsy Prints provided a peek into an exclusive print for their upcoming collection.
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Yes, you see right. Kuehs! The illustration is by Mr Lee Xin Li, and I must say the kuehs look rather delectable. Both my husband and son are big fans of the dessert. I’m sure, if I do get this dress, I’ll get calls of “Kuehs, kuehs!” from my husband, and “yummy!” from my son.

(Update on 7 Nov)

Last night, THC uploaded more pictures of its latest collection on the FB page. After checking the back view of “The Chap” dress, and I have reservations about it. The rumpled gathers at the back cause the dress to lose the sleek look it has in front. Unfortunately I can’t save the photo to show it here.

The other disappointment is the cheongsam Tux top. There is a row of pleats on the back, and again, it doesn’t look as sleek as it should it be.
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Sifting through the cheongsams from Taobao

Recently I received a comment from a reader to check out Taobao or  淘宝 for cheap and good cheongsams. That piqued my interest, since I’m always interested in cheap and good cheongsams (which are rare), and I had never really checked out the site  before.  Initially I had wanted to put up a review post like what I did for Etsy and Qoo10, but after going through innumerable cheongsam pictures, I realized there are some interesting designs suitable for women who are not slim, or in plain speak, pudgy.

I am not going to be politically correct here, and will probably have vitriol spew at me, but I’m just stating the truth. Almost all cheongsam designs are for the slim physique. Don’t forget that the basis of the cheongsam is the clsssic form-fitting cut. The different modern versions are basically variation of it. Think of the reasoning for the design in the first place, and the women who wore them in the hey days of the 1930s. To make a point, before filming of the movie “Lust, Caution” started, Ang Lee told his main actors (who are already slim built by the way), to shed a few more pounds, so that their physiques resembled more to the people living in the 1930s. I’m sure those who saw the movie remember Tang Wei in her beautiful cheongsams. That is the physique meant for the dress.

Previously I thought that with the flare skirt bottom, the cheongsam can be accommodating to the horizontally challenged. But I have since realized that for ladies who don’t possess the shape, they only end up looking like they are wearing a bigger-sized dress meant for a slim person. The big flabby arms in a sleeveless dress, albeit with flared skirt, just don’t cut it.

Don’t believe me, look at the models showcasing the cheongsams, do you see anyone who has BMI higher than 20? (Actually there is one site where the model seems to reflect the reality, but that is the only one I have seen so far.) These slim girls make the dresses look good and we project our images on them, thinking we would look as fabulous. But we have to look at how the cheongsam looks on our physique and be realistic, even the modern designs favor the slim body. So designers have to be creative in launching collections for pudgy women – its not about offering a L or XL size dress to cater to them, but truly redesigning a cheongsam which flatters the bigger bodice.

I know The Lady General tried launching some loose fitting dresses in the first collection, but I find them looking too much like the muu-muu. At Taobao, surprisingly, there are some designs which would look good (and even better) on a bigger woman though the models are stick thin.

I find this elegant flowy grey dress, with bell shaped sleeves, is not really suitable for a thin body, because it only emphasizes how skinny the model is. Instead it is actually better suited for someone bigger in size.
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Below is a rather pretty blue leafy print dress, suitable for the horizontally challenged, and like the above, the elbow length sleeves help to cover up any flabby flaws. Note the the material should be soft to drape well.
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A modern cheongsam shift dress, which has a sophisticated look that doesn’t resemble a tent. Though the fabric is not flowy, the structure still helps to flatter the big size.
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If you are looking for a black dress for the slimming effect, here is a possibility.
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And if you prefer some splash of bright colors, this high-waisted dress is a good option.
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I am sure there are better improvisations to the cheongsam that will make the pudgy ladies look elegant. It will take a lot of effort to come up with something flattering, but I think it will be popular.

The buffet at The Lime

Last month, we had a farewell lunch for a colleague, and she recommended Lime restaurant of the Park Royal at Pickering hotel. Apparently the lunch buffet is rather good. Still, I tend to be rather skeptical about buffet because quantity doesn’t equate to quality. But I didn’t want to be a spoilt sport and so went along.

The hotel is located at a busy junction, but it is relaxing inside the restaurant despite it facing the road. I think the beautiful water feature outside it has a rather calming effect.

The buffet offers a wide variety of food ranging from Italian, Japanese, western roast to even Perankan cuisine. (This is one of the reasons for my skepticism. Can a restaurant provides good food for so many different specialities?) One of the selling points of the buffet is that you can order freshly prepared meals like pasta.

Lime

Image taken from website.

I walked around the restaurant, checking out the different food stations.

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Salad selections

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DIY salad available

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There are even Asian salads for you to choose from.

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Cold cuts

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From left to right: grilled vegetables, mash potato and roast

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You can choose the pasta type and have it cooked on the spot.


A colleague, who had just returned from a vacation in Italy, remarked that the pasta was comparable to what she had in its home town.

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A table of colorful tropical fruits

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The ubiquitous chocolate fountain


Though I am a big fan of desserts, I didn’t find the green tea chocolate fountain appetizing. I think the restaurant is trying to try something funky since it’s called Lime, but this color just doesn’t appeal to me.

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The highlights: desserts

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More sweets for the tooth

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The perankan desserts


This station has DIY rojak, kuehs and durian creme brulee.

After going around, in fact a few rounds, I decided against the western cuisine, which is my usual choice. Instead I chose to have the peranakan food. I picked the Ayam Buah Keluak (a signature dish of chicken cooked with black nuts), Chap Chye (stewed mixed vegetables) and a salted vegetable with duck soup.
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I made a small rojak as well and took a shot glass of durian brulee to try.
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And what’s my verdict? I was wrong, the food was good, though I didn’t get to try the different cuisines. The problem was that I had a big breakfast followed by fruits at 11AM. My colleague, D, exclaimed, “Maria, aren’t you spoiling your appetite before the buffet?” Yep, because I didn’t think much of it, I didn’t have the stomach room to try the different food, and that was my biggest regret.

The perankan food was surprisingly rather authentic and tasty. But the biggest treat was the Durian brulee. It was soooo… good!!! I was the first at the table to try it. It was pure durian heaven, 100% quality durian. My colleague next to me could smell it, and her mouth watered. She is a big durian fan, and couldn’t wait to have a taste. Next thing everyone knew, when she returned to the table, she had 3 shot glasses of durian with her. Yes, she finished every single one of them, and wanted to have one more for the road. It is that good! One of the best desserts I ever had.

I hope to return to the Lime, this time with empty stomach, to try the different food.

Cheongsams from Qoo10, anyone? (Updated)

(I like to apologize first for getting this published prematurely yesterday. I had a bit of a problem getting used to the new WordPress format and accidentally pressed “Publish” before completing my post. This is the finalized version..)

Recently, out of curiosity, I decided to look at the type of cheongsams available for sale in Qoo10, a marketplace where sellers to set up online stores. (I mentioned in my previous post “Cheongsams from Etsy and others” that the stuff sold in qoo10 tend to be relatively cheaper than Etsy. It turns out there are a lot of cheongsams available, but they tend to be generic looking: the straight-cut fitting form with back zip. Still I was surprised by the price range of the dresses; they can be as cheap as less than S$20 to as much as more than S$400! Yet there don’t seem much differences between them, at least based on the pictures and absence of close look at the quality.

Let’s check out the cheap cheongsams available. If you are looking fur a one-off Chinese New Year dress, here is something for less than S $20. If the quality sucks, you can dump it when CNY is over. Though you have to keep your fingers crossed that it doesn’t look obviously cheap.
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I had showcased the below dress in my previous post, which is selling in Etsy for more than S $160. The same dress (or maybe an imitation) is selling for less than a quarter of that in Qoo10!
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For those looking for wedding cheongsams on a budget, look no further than Qoo10. You have options of either short or long dresses for less than S $100. The fabrics are claimed to make up of tulle, organza, and chiffon. Whether or not the workmanship is up to mark is for you to find out after delivery. I’m sure alteration is required as well. I guess if you do have a small budget, and again for one-time wear, you can consider it.
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Now comes the more expensive cheongsams, like the one below which costs more than S$160. The fabric is supposedly natural silk.
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This floral-print cheongsam is more than S$300! The pattern is marketed as spray painted on instead of printed. I assume that may be one of the reasons for the higher price, for labor-intensive fabric? (Does this mean if the dress gets wet, the color may run?) In the item description, there is much touting of the mulberry silk fabric. From the closed up images of the cheongsam, the workmanship seems ok. Still, would anyone pays a few hundred bucks for a mass-produced piece?
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Then there is a dress, also more than S$300, which I think has questionable workmanship. Look at the seam of the right sleeve compared to the left one, and the lumpy fabric on the chest.

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This image is intentionally tinted to avoid any accusation from the seller.

And I don’t know how an expensive cheongsam can have seam like this?

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This image is intentionally tinted.

My husband suggested there is no harm getting a cheap cheongsam from Qoo10, just to check out the quality. I may do that to see how it compares to what I have. But I am not sure if I will get any dress that costs more than S$100. It’s actually easier to make a cheongsam with back zip than to have one made with the traditional front opening. So these dresses are basically factory-made.

The cheongsams from Etsy and others

Recently I discovered another online source for cheongsams: Etsy. I was only vaguely aware of this website which sells some pretty interesting stuff, and didn’t realize it is like a high quality/high-end Qoo10, where you can set up an online store selling unique products. ( I have seen some really beautiful furniture and handcrafted merchandise available.) Anyway it turns out there are numerous cheongsams available. In fact The Happy Cheongsam and AnnularRing (one of the brands on Elegente site) offer their products there. Though, after checking out the selections available, I have to say they are a mixed bag, mostly blah rather than wow.

Many of the sellers hail from the west, with a number of them selling so-called vintage cheongsams, such as this.

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I was a little surprised to find one US store offering made to order cheongsams, all of which are in the traditional cut (with back zip though). The cost ranges from about S $250 to less than S $400. The dresses look decent, nothing outstanding. I do not know about the workmanship so I can’t say if they are affordable. The fabrics (indicated as cotton and silk) look rather ordinary though.
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There are the brocade fabric that many westerners associate the cheongsams with. Maybe it’s because of their limited exposure to only Chinatown, but whenever I see them in the brocade cheongsam, I’m always reminded of Chinese restaurant-waitress -lookalike.
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Truth is, if you want an elegant look in a cheongsam, Chinatown should be the last place you go to. In fact I’m not even sure if you should even consider it.

Most dresses available are in the traditional straight cut fit. Many have the boring floral and geometric patterns, and a few with gaudy sequins.
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Then there are the modern designs which tried to go sexy or boho. The former are in ultra-short dresses with side slits, and look more suitable for those working in the escort line.

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As for the boho look, to be honest, I’m not sure if this is what I want for my cheongsam. To me, it is supposed to embody elegance and the boho look just doesn’t cut it.
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This modern design below is acceptable, but boring.
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So you can see, compared to the designs of those standalone online stores or Shanghai Tang, the cheongsams on Etsy are not inspirational.

For those who prefer something more interesting, you can opt for the cheongsam bookmark instead.
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News Flash

Lark and Peony
The store is launching it’s vintage collection starting tomorrow. Though I am not sure why the different prints are launched on different dates.
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As befitting of the vintage look, the dresses come with full circle skirt and open back, and a short 1″ collar for a more casual wear. Though I like the dress with the hidden side pockets and circle skirt, but I am not one for short collar.

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If you like high collar like me, L&P is launching the classic cut (4.5cm high collar) in end October, and the Princess series (2″ collar) in early November.

Joli Pretty
JP is on a roll with their designs. They are launching a new collection (again) this Thursday. Here are two sneek peeks of the dresses available. Seems like JP is going for the cutesy look with the bow.
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Buddy’s quirks

Buddy is a rather strong-willed child, with a mind of his own; he showed his likes and dislikes at a very young age. Since he was a baby, he has certain quirks which makes it quite challenging to handle him. I’m not sure why but he has never been keen on bath since he was an infant. In fact for a very long time (probably till he was 18 months old), it requires two persons to bathe him, basically my husband and myself, with one of us holding him since he would struggle. We had to brace for a bout of wailing once we mentioned bath time. It was only when I put up stickers on the bath room wall that we managed to get him somewhat willing to go for his bath, and over time, I had to add something interesting, like a water shooter, rubber duckies, and recently monster truck squirters. Still, even now, there are days when he would put up a fight. It baffles my husband and I why Buddy doesn’t seem to enjoy bath time like other babies or toddlers, though we tried to make it fun for him, like singing or talking about the stickers on the wall.

It’s the same for diaper change. It was quite akward for us when we had a wailing Buddy in the changing room , while the other babies happily had their diapers changed without any fuss. It was only when he got older, around 16 months old, that he started to tolerate it and didn’t cry woefully like we were about to sell him off.

Buddy likes to exert his independence. He wants to figure out how to play with a certain toy on his own instead of allowing us to show him. Some time ago, my husband bought a spinning top for him, and tried showing him how to spin it. But Buddy wanted to do it his own way. It was the same with the motorized Thomas Train that I got for him. He didn’t want to allow Thomas to run on the track and instead was interested in holding Thomas stationery on a surface with its wheels running, or just looking at the moving wheels. He also hardly wants us to hold his hand when he is walking or climbing steps, unless the steps are high. It’s like he wants to behave like a big boy. Yet, for a long time especially when he is upset, he wants to be carried by my husband. It was only during the last one month or so that he is willing to sit in the stroller, after rejecting it for several months.

When Buddy was younger, he had a fascination with texture, and would touch the flowers and leaves, fabric of a couch, the uneven surface of the wall and the grainy foot stone to feel them. He doesn’t do this as much now. He also had a love for spinning and turning wheels, and still does. Whenever he sees any wheels or round-shaped objects, he cannot resist giving it a spin. And so the song “Wheels on the bus” is one of his favorites, and I guess this leads to a love for cars, trucks, trains and buses.

We don’t know where he learned to spin objects, but he can spin almost anything with his hands. It started after he learned to walk, and we saw him spinning a ball on the table. It amazed the teachers in daycare at how dextile his hands are. Basically he just loves the rotating motion. I also didn’t realize, until recently, the significance of his ball kicking skill. He was already able to do that at 18 months old. Yes, kick a ball. In fact he is well known in daycare as the baby/toddler with great ball skill. He is now able to run towards the ball and kick it.

After seeing many kids at the playground and at Buddy’s gym class, I noticed that only the older kids like those 5 years old and above are able to run and kick the ball. At Buddy’s age, the other toddlers basically just pick it up and throw it. My husband and I believe this is a special talent Buddy is born with, though we have no idea why he has it since no one in our extended families ever played soccer. We do hope that this gift will be developed to good use in future. Judging at how crappy the soccer scene is in Singapore, I seriously doubt if he can have a soccer career here or even be a professional. The only hope is that he can develop it to a good enough level to get a college scholarship somewhere. (Not that we don’t believe in Buddy, but let’s face it. There are at least half a million European, African and Latin American toddlers with soccer talents. Buddy doesn’t stand a chance against them.)

Buddy does have a little of an obsessive nature, which I understand is common with toddlers. Previously it was car or train. Right now, it’s shapes. It might be my husband who once pointed out to him a hexagon object. He became fascinated with it, probably because it is not the usual triangle or square. He surprised the teacher recently when he called out a hexagonal object. He becomes obsessed with the hexagonal nuts in his tool box. My husband found the Shapes song from Kids TV for him, and he loves the video ever since, and has been singing the songs he picked up. He learned about pentagon, which he discovered in the colored patch of a soccer ball (in fact it interconnects with the hexagonal white patches), and octagon (found in the stop sign).

Buddy has also shown a stubborn streak. When he does something wrong, he refuses to apologize. When we threaten to take away his toys, he doesn’t scream or throw the toys in anger, instead he will just give them to us rather than say sorry. Goes to show what a headstrong boy he is (might have gotten that from me)! The only things he is allowed to have are books and puzzles. (We don’t believe in capital punishment, and might as well use the punishment time productively.) He ends up quietly working on the puzzles and completes them.

I don’t know if this is another characteristic of his obsessive nature, but Buddy has shown remarkable patience and focus when he works on the puzzles. In fact he focuses best when there is no other toys to distract him. So it’s good to remove them on a regular basis.

When I wondered aloud about Buddy’s quirks the other day, my husband pointed out to me that I have plenty to boot myself. I guess, this may be a case of “like mother, like son”.

Buddy and his toys

When my in-laws were in the US recently, my husband and I took the chance to order products from the American online stores so that they could bring back for us. They have a lot more varieties and cheaper in prices compared to what are available in Singapore. Half of the stuff we ordered are for Buddy, mostly toys and educational materials.

Buddy has shown a deep interest in trains, cars, bus and trucks after he turned two in June. I guess that is typical of boys. When we took him to this toy shop The Better Toy Store (previously located at Takashimaya), he parked himself at the train set; same for the other kids. We thought we might get a starter kit for him, but which one? The shop sells train sets from Plan Toys, which, I was told, is also compatible with Thomas Train brand.

I decided to do some research, and found that there are actually a lot of brands out there. A couple of the high quality popular ones are Brio and Thomas, and of course the prices reflect that. However many of them, whether cheap or expensive, are actually compatible with each other. I then thought of getting a second-hand set from eBay (US site) where there are a lot of train sets and accessories available. But my husband felt we should get a basic set for Buddy first, instead of waiting till mid September for his parents to bring it back.

We went to check out Toys R Us, and I was surprised at the meager offering. Still, Buddy took a fancy to the Percy Take N Play train (the die-cast train series). My husband bought it for him (before I could say no), and he became inseparable from Percy then. I thought I might be able to get cheaper train online, since the little Percy costs more than S$14. I checked out Qoo10 and found the wooden train series, and bought Salty for about S$5 (too bad this is the only series available on the site). My husband then told me we should get a motorized train for Buddy since that is more cool. (I think he wants it as well.) He sent me this link of a motorized Thomas running on Ikea train track, and I have to admit it sure looks fun.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTsoeGNUTww

The motorized train is part of the TrackMaster series, and I chose a Thomas with cargo car from Amazon. When my husband opened the box for Buddy, it immediately became his favorite train. But strangely, he didn’t want the cargo car attached, and he also didn’t let Thomas runs on its own. It took a week before he could be persuaded to allow Thomas to run freely, and even now he still doesn’t want the cargo car attached to it. I guess it’s because it’s easier to carry Thomas around without the car. My husband told us to guard Thomas with our lives; whenever

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[From left] Thomas (Trackmaster) with cargo car, Percy (Take N Play), and Salty (Wooden Train).

We bought a basic train set from Ikea, and later an expansion set and bridge set. The diecast train can’t go on the wooden track, but both the wooden train and Trackmaster series move on it just fine. Here is Thomas running along the track.

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The smaller loop on the top was set up by my husband, while the bigger lower loop was built by Buddy.

Ikea also offers sturdy toy cars that can withstand knocks and abuses, which is important because toddlers do not know what handle with care means.
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Whenever we visit my parents, who stay with my brother and his family, Buddy would be fascinated with the little diecast toy cars that his cousin, Yikai, owns. This is a yellow car that Buddy played with and refused to return.
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Both my husband and I may be seen as competitive parents. To us, it would be best if we can combine Buddy’s play with learning. We got him this box of 4 jigsaw puzzles when he was about 22 months old for him to try. Initially he was only able to put together the 2-piece puzzle on his own. But we also realized, as he continued to work on the other puzzles that he enjoyed putting the pieces together. Now he can complete all of them without help.

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Since Buddy has shown a love for jigsaw puzzles, we wanted to get him something interesting from Amazon, like a fire truck or pirate ship picture. My husband thought this fire truck giant puzzle would be enticing for Buddy. But I wondered if it might be a little too advanced for him since there are 30 pieces. Still my husband felt it would be a good challenge for him, and he could slowly learn to put it together with our help.  He had tried it a few times with us, and I must say I also need time to figure it out myself. My husband finally admitted that maybe we should get an intermediate set of 15-piece puzzle for Buddy for the time being.

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The Learning Journey brand has a lot of good stuff for preschoolers. We bought a number of learning puzzles for Buddy, like this spelling match-it puzzle set. He is able to piece the words together, though I don’t think it is because he knows how to spell, but it is like a simple jigsaw puzzle for him.
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I realized that we need to do more on Buddy’s Mandarin skill, and bought him this cute animal puzzle cards so that he can learn the animal names in Chinese.

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I don’t know why but Buddy has a thing for the rhino, and within a couple of days, poor rhino is in need of intensive care.

I have mentioned in previous post that it has not been easy to get Buddy to bathe. We have tried the rubber ducky, the water piston, the beach pail and scoop, and all only managed to get him into the bath tub for a short period of time before he got tired of them. So we needed something exciting. I chanced upon this set of monster truck squirters on Amazon, and showed my husband. He agreed that this would do the trick to entice Buddy to bathe willingly. When we first showed them to him, he literally ran into the bathroom.  He couldn’t decide which one to play with, and kept asking us to give him different trucks. So now, we only limit him to two. But he does have his preferences, like the tow truck and the green jeep are frequently requested.

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My father-in-law bought toy balls for Buddy again, adding to the now extensive collection of balls.  (Perhaps a Trackmaster train next time, or a HABA toy?) Buddy only tried playing with the soccer ball, but it is a little too heavy for him, and he got frustrated when he couldn’t kick it far enough on the grass field. He prefers the mini soccer ball we got him from Giant supermarket.

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[Clockwise from left]: the smaller replica of the 2014 FIFA World Cup soccer ball, the hand ball, and the American football.

Last year, when my father in law made a trip to Germany, my husband told him to get some toys for Buddy. He came back with two, and one was a pretty well-made toy tool box set. We only opened it for Buddy a couple of months back, when he got older, since it is meant for 3+ years old. (Luckily Buddy doesn’t chew or swallow his toys or anything that is non food.)
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Initially he wasn’t really interested in the tools, and instead discovered he could turn the tool bench upside down and use it as a stool. But my husband keeps showing him the bolts, nuts, spanner and such, and how to use them. Buddy has now learned to play-act with the hammer and spanner.

Buddy also received a scooter early last year from his uncle and aunt from the US when they stopped by Singapore. Though it comes with a small seat for toddler, Buddy was still too young to use it. We left it in storage until a couple of months ago when I thought Buddy might be able to try it. It was then I realized we could have set up the seat for him earlier. But he likes to scoot around on it though he still can’t steer. We bought him a helmet but he doesn’t like wearing it. We let him off since he can’t move fast. But he is learning to propel himself faster on it, so soon it’ll be helmet or no scooter. But he is pretty headstrong, and will rather forgo the scooter than wear the helmet.
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The cheongsam collections follow-up

The Happy Cheongsam provided loads of pictures of their latest collecton, to be launched this Friday at 8pm, on Facebook. I guess this is to drum up publicity and excitement among their followers. The theme “Hellooo Tokyooo!” says as much where the inspiration came from. I have to say the latest designs are better than the last collection, inspired by California.
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The first is a A-line cheongsam called “Sunrise on Fuji”. Though I can’t really tell Mt Fuji from the geometric print, but I thought this is a lovely design.
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However I am not sure why a fabric belt is included with the dress since it doesn’t add to the design. In fact I think it causes the bunching around the bums area (partly due to the design and partly because of, what I suspect, a stiff fabric), as seen in the picture below. If I would to get this dress, I would remove the detachable belt.
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The below “Blue Sakura” dress is good for a casual Friday or weekends. It doesn’t have a belt, but trimming along the waist. This works because it is sewn on and helps to break up the monotonous white color.
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As seen from the back.

The following is the pretty “Tokyo Doll”, with removable brooch and black sash. Suitable for the younger ladies, a little too cutesy for older women, especially those above 40.
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Now, for the most elegant dress of the collection, “Cherry Blossoms”. It is similar to the tulip-skirt dresses of the previous launches (“Tiffany Breakfast” was the first), but THC has done an improvisation on the front panel where the collars can be folded down. For this design, the fabric belt actually complements and improves the look. I like this design the best.
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This is another A-line cheongsam dress with a belt which I deem unnecessary as well. I had initially liked the design until I saw the back view.
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There is a gather in front of the skirt but none at the back. I think if a gather is made at the back, the belt wouldn’t have caused the bunching. And to overcome the monotonous black, the top could have been the same for both front and back.

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There is bunching along the bums area as well.

The only top in the collection: a cutesy combination of pink and neko-chan print (similar color combo that Our Bitsy Prints used in the latest collections which works well). I do wonder about the peplum style, which is seriously overused.

Well, despite my critique of some of the designs, this is a good collection nonetheless.. it is always nice to see a designer taking chances. Sure, bloggers like me might criticise, but at least I think I provide feedback to improved future collections. So, well done, Min!