The vintage cheongsam (Updated)

Some time ago, a reader, Ed, forwarded a few pictures of 1950s/60’s cheongsams to me, and I like to share them here. I have also taken pictures of a couple of pages from the book “In The Mood For Cheongsam”, which provides an amazing history of the iconic dress in Singapore. This book was published in conjunction with the cheongsam exhibition held in 2012 at the National Museum of Singapore, which I wrote about in my post “Who’s In The Mood For Cheongsam?” dated 12 April 2012.

Below are two pictures of formal events held in the 1960’s (the second photo, taken in Singapore, is also found in the book). The women wore the classic figure-hugging cheongsams with high collars. There is this elegance about their styles that is not commonly seen nowadays. I have to admit, despite the convenience of side pockets and flare skirt of the modern design, few can match the gorgeousness of a well-made classic cheongsam. I guess this is also why there are some who still prefer the classic form.

image

image

Ed also forwarded me a picture of a singer from the 1950’s in the clsssic cheongsam. (The hourglass figure was made possible with corset, which was popular then.) [Ed updated me that she was a Singapore singer by the name of ‘Chong Sit Fong’.]
image

Here is a 1960's picture I found online. (Archive picture from Sotherby.) To be honest, it has not been easy to get hold of such photos. When I did a Google search for 1960’s cheongsams, a lot of 21st century pictures turned up instead.
image

According to the above-mentioned book, the cheongsam became an everyday dress, wore even by working women, in the 1960’s in Singapore. Though some chose to wear a loose fit for comfort, there were many who wore the figure-hugging design, which they felt portrayed a feminine look.
image

image

The 1960’s were the heyday of the cheongsam in Singapore, unfortunately it’s popularity started to wane in the 1970’s because women found the dress constricting. Since then it has never regained it’s footing. Maybe with more
modern versions appearing in the market, there will be more women wearing it. Still, I only see more glimpses of the cheongsam during the Chinese new year period. There are only a handful of women who wear it on a regular basis, me being one of them.

Going back further, in the 1930s and 1940s, we have here a picture of Soong Mei-Ling or Madam Chiang Kai Shek, wife of the generalissimo who fled to Taiwan after being defeated by the Chinese Communist Party in late 1940s. Madam Chiang was known to wear the cheongsam almost everyday. (Picture taken from cultural-china.com.)
image

Another picture of Madam Chiang with a group of older women, also in cheongsams. These women did not have the slim physique of the younger ladies, but they sure looked rather dignified. The dresses are loose fitting and the sleeves are elbow-length, which allow even women without the”right figure” to look presentable. (Photo from shme.com and also found in the book.)
image

Another reader, Dionne, approached me in end January if I would be interested to purchase her mother’s vintage cheongsams which appear to be the loose-fitting design. There are three of them, and the workmanship seems pretty decent. I declined though, since I find them too old style for me. I suggested to her to approach the museum. If any reader is interested to collect any of them, do let me know and I can connect you to Dionne.

image

image

image

image

image

On a separate note, there is something which has intrigued me about the design of the cheongsam: the layout of the front flap or faux flap. In the traditional form, the flap has been on the right. But some modern cheongsams have it on the left. I asked a couple of designers for their thoughts. Lai Chan remarked that he was told during the Qing dynasty, the Chinese wore the dress with the flap on the right, whereas the foreigners (barbarians) wore it on the left. But this is not verified. While Lilian from Dayglow Vintage told me that her most recent designs have functional buttons, and she felt that it would easier for the right-handed wearer to button the flap on the left. So it was just a practical reason for her to change the design. If anyone knows the real reason why the flap was placed on the right, let me know.

A follow-up to “Unsupporting You” – it’s worse than I thought

(I am interrupting my regular posting for this follow-up political post.)

I wrote a post called “Unsupporting You” on  25 February 2014 where I stated for the record that I was not supporting the Worker’s Party (WP) any longer, and my reasons for it. At that time, the Auditor General office (AGO) was directed by the Ministry of Finance to conduct an audit on the financial accounts of Aljunied Hougang Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), at the request of the Ministry of National Development. (Note that the AGO was only asked to audit the 2012 accounts.)

To refresh our memory, the reason for the AGO stepping in was because the auditors appointed by WP couldn’t give an opinion on the financial statements. The latters found various issues in the 2012 accounts, more than what was discovered in 2011, and so the statements could not be signed off.

Now, one year later, the AGO finally released it’s report earlier this month. In it was listed five major lapses found during the audit: not transferring monies to sinking fund, poor internal control, no system to safeguard documents, inadequate oversight on related party transactions, and no system to monitor arrears.

Following the release, there was a parliamentary session to discuss the report. I won’t go into details of the report nor the discussions, because the information is available for all to read. Instead I want to put down my thoughts on the misconceptions and disingenuous references that are inferred from the findings, as well as the attitude of WP.

First of all, the AGO went in to conduct a financial audit, like what the WP’s auditors had done previously. But it was much more thorough, and that was why it took a year. (Usually an audit takes about a week to a few weeks.) The AGO did not conduct a forensic audit with the intent to investigate fraud. I am not sure if everybody understands how audit works, but basically the auditors will randomly select documents (or sampling) to verify the numbers in the financial accounts. In a forensic audit, which is done by specially trained auditors, it is a process of reviewing a company’s or person ‘s financial statements to determine if they are accurate and lawful. It involves tracking and collecting evidence since this is usually a matter of legal concern, and the evidence can be used in court.

It was therefore wrong to infer from the AGO report that there was no fraud detected, since it wasn’t the objective of the AGO to conduct an investigation in the first place. But one thing is sure, the appointed auditors and, subsequently, the AGO discovered there were missing documents that couldn’t verify the accounts of AHPETC. Together with other serous issues like lack of a system to monitor arrears of conservancy and service charges and others mentioned above, the AGO concluded that the financial statements cannot be regarded as accurate and reliable, and that it cannot ascertain if public funds have been properly accounted for. These are also the same reasons why the appointed auditors couldn’t provide an opinion on the statements. Basically they don’t know what the hell is going on with the finances. Now, don’t you think this conclusion is cause for concern?

A number of people don’t seem to think so, with one comment even suggested that WP could engage a better accountant. The thing is this is not even about better accounting process. It is about basic accounts management. A financial statement is a basic requirement of an organization that collects money for whatever reasons. It provides information on the financial activities within the firm. Even the mafia has documented accounts; otherwise how the hell would the boss know how much money is going in and out of the organization?

If AHPETC was a listed company, this would be a big scandal and it would have to stop trading on the exchange pending an investigation. In fact the shareholders would have rushed to the office immediately and demanded an explanation. For those who still don’t get it, it’s like your bank telling you that due to insufficient IT resources, it can’t give you a bank statement and it doesn’t know how much money you have in your account. Now, would you jump and scream bloody murder?

So please stop blaming the PAP for a lack of financial statements. This is internal accounting procedure, nobody is stopping AHPETC from keeping track of the money. Worse, how can documents go missing? How can there not be a proper system to keep track of who paid or not paid the service charges? Even a mom and pop shop would have proper records. Again, don’t blame the PAP for the town council not having the system in place, because nobody was stopping them from having one developed. Besides, the party secretary, LowThia Khiang, had a town council in place in Hougang for more than 20 years when he was the MP there, so he should know what are required. To me, there are only two possibilities for this mess: either the town council’s management is seriously crappy, or there is something fishy going on. Either scenarios don’t bode well for WP.

During the first year, when the auditors couldn’t certify the accounts, that should have raised alarm bell among the WP leadership. As MPs, they are like the board of directors of the town council, and they are responsible for the operations even though a management company is engaged to run it. They should have started an investigation or engaged a consultant to restructure the internal processes. Yet nothing was done, and the same issues were highlighted the following year by the auditors and more.

In parliament, Low Thia Khiang said WP would look into hiring a consultant to look into the matter. Why only now, after four years of accounting mess? And why did the town council only put in monies into the Sinking fund after the AGO questioned about it. And there was still a shortfall after it had done so. (I am not sure if AHPETC had since put in the remaining amount.) Then there are the related party transactions. The General Manager of the town council who approves of services and payments is also the same guy who owns the company that provides the services. Seriously???

AHPETC only makes up of one GRC and two small SMCs. Imagine if WP had taken over power as the government. If they can’t be bothered with the town council accounts, what more the byzantine accounts of the nation’s finances?

WP had accused PAP of not being transparent, and yet it has not been acting in a transparent manner either. And stop accusing the other side when your mistakes are being pointed out. Two wrongs don’t make a right!  But the supporters love to use this argument; as if this exonerates WP from the mistakes it made. If WP had apologized for the mess and vowed to reform the party and change the internal structure for the better, it would have earned the party respect. Instead, this mess makes them look evasive and suspicious.

During the parliamentary session, WP MPs were rather defiant. Pritam Singh had the audacity to remark that he would only answer to the residents of Aljunied GRC. Hello? The parliamentarians are representatives of the people. AHPETC doesn’t just received money from the residents there, but also public funding (dispensed by the Ministry of National Development) which comes from all tax payers. He answers to all of us!

At the conclusion of the parliamentary session, the minister from MND told WP MPs that AHPETC had to submit audited financial reports by June for the year of 2011 and 2012. So let’s see if WP will comply. The first thing they should do is to announce a forensic audit to retrieve the missing information in the accounts. At the moment, no one is saying there is fraud, but it doesn’t mean there is nothing wrong. WP is given a chance to rectify the situation.

Some people have challenged the government to call in the corruption investigation bureau or the Commercial investigation department. Unfortunately even though this is a legitimate action to take , particularly for listed companies and charity organizations, you have to be very sensitive when it comes to politics. And the weak Town Council act doesn’t help matter.

The National Solidarity Party (NSP) called for a depoliticizing of the town council. Initially I had thought MPs should not be responsible for it. But after this episode, it looks like this is actually a good test for the opposition MPs. It allows voters to judge the management skills of these MPs, how they handle obstacles, whether they observe corporate governance, the integrity and transparency of their systems. Running a GRC is a little like running Singapore, with far less complexity. This will test the MPs’ mettle as leaders.

I also want to touch on the lack of clear-thinking debate among the supporters of various parties. Very few rebut the points raised, and instead resort to personal attacks. Like WP supporters tend to accuse anyone criticizing WP as a PAP mole. When we are talking facts, let’s be rational. WP called for a first world parliament during the last election campaign, and in such parliament, there is check and balance. Since WP wants to check the PAP, then it has to be subjected to checks as well. Otherwise it is only a party of double standards.

As Singaporeans, we should be pro-Singapore and not blindly follow any party. If the government rolls out polices good for the country and people, then give credit to it. If there are mistakes made, we point them out. Same goes for the opposition parties. We should be looking for the best people to lead us, instead of looking for those who “appear less bad”. I do want opposition party in parliament to check on the government. But I disagree on supporting any opposition party for the sake of opposing the ruling PAP. We should give our votes to those who make effort to provide alternative policies. We may not agree with the proposals but they are a starting point for a debate.

Singaporeans must learn earn to be politically mature, analyze the facts and debate rationally on them. Though, honestly, I think this will only happen with the younger generations, who have gone through or are going through the analytical curriculum.

The cheongsam grandmaster – Laichan

(Foreword: A couple of weeks ago I approached Laichan of Laichan boutique and Peter Kor of Studio 55 to allow me to take pictures of their cheongsams for the blog. While making the request, an idea formed in my mind of puttting up a series of posts on the cheongsam grandmasters. Each post will feature the designer’s background and design philosophy.

I am really pleased that both Laichan and Peter are supportive of the idea, and are willing to spare time answering my questions despite their busy schedules. I like to express my deepest appreciation to both great designers.)

Bespectacled, soft-spoken, with a slim physique, Laichan impresses me with his sincere and humble personality. Though I call him a cheongsam grandmaster, he designs gowns and other attires as well. But I am only interested in the qipao, and this is what I will focus on.

Laichan boutique is located at #02-10 Raffles Hotel. The interior has the feel of an art and fashion gallery because high on the display shelves, above the racks of vibrant-colored dresses and tops, are interesting sculptures made by Laichan’s brother, Eddie. And they are for sale as well. I was there at the shop a few times, and during the photo taking, Eddie was very kind to help me with the mannequins and clothes, and gave me a bit of history as well. image

Upon entering the boutique, what caught my eye was a mannequin in a lavender cheongsam top with exquisite detailed embroidery of flowers and a bird. It is an attention-grabbing piece which would pair nicely with a pencil skirt.

image

Laichan’s cheongsams and tops are famous for their iconic bead buttons, which go from the collar down across the right chest and run along the side. Here is a dress with pretty floral appliqués.

image

The cheongsam is not lined, and on the underside, the seam is beautiful sewn with piping. image

On another mannequin is this Japanese fabric cheongsam with gorgeous print. The fabric is a combination of cotton, viscose and lycra.

image image

For this qipao, the underside seam doesn’t have piping but look at how well it is folded and sewn.
image

A cheongsam top with the iconic bead buttons on a beautiful tropical print.

image

Laichan’s repertoire goes beyond the classic cheongsam. He showed me a few modern designs, such as this stylish-looking pale grey linen dress with front flaps. I thought it reminded me of the classic trench coat.

image image

The excellent workmanship is clearly seen in the pictures. And just like those dresses shown above, the same skill is applied on the lined underside as well. Doesn’t the workmanship remind you of a well-made jacket?

wpid-20150212_145122.jpg

A flaming red modern cheongsam design with front zip. image image

I am amazed by Laichan’s attention to details, like having piping along the inner seam.This is the first time I’m seeing this. It’s absolutely amazing how even the underside of the dress or top looks as good as the exterior. I think it is due to his desire to create the best for his customers. Laichan told me that he doesn’t believe in only showing a beautiful exterior, he wants his customers to know that the tops or dresses they are wearing have the same quality inner details as well. I thought about it, and realized the significance of such thoughtful care. You can judge the attention put in by the designer and the craftsmanship of the seamstress by how the underside of the attire is sewn. It is a reflection of excellence!

Laichan is also known for his evening wear, like this stunning lace cheongsam. image image

You must have a fabulous back and physique to wear this!

image

A simple but absolutely elegant cheongsam evening wear with the iconic bead buttons.

image

All the clothes in the boutique are unique, one-off piece. The regular cheongsams are made in the standard M size of the midi length, which is also the traditional length. Of course you can have it altered, within a reasonable range. Eddie told me that they will make sure the dress fits well on the customer. If they can’t alter the dress to fit, they will rather not sell it. He cited a recent instance of a very petite lady who wanted to alter a cheongsam, but he told her it couldn’t be done because the alteration would be too drastic and would make the dress looked odd. He suggested she had one custom-made instead.

On another occasion, there was a lady who would only buy a dress that fits her because she has had bad alteration experience. Eddie persuaded her to have the dress altered, and if it didn’t fit her, he would refund fully the cost in cash. She relented, and when she tried it after, she was very pleased. Naturally this bespoke service comes at a price. A regular cheongsam dress sets you back at S$788, but you can be assured that you have bought a beautiful unique piece worthy of collecting.

Laichan believes in continuing to improve his techniques. He is passionate about innovation to make the cheongsam better fits the customer, as well as to make it comfortable. You will have noticed by now that his dresses are mostly in the classic form, and that is because he wants to improve on the basics. He likens it to a tree that has to have deep roots before stretching its branches outward.

Laichan believes that strengthening the foundation in what you do is very important. But even when it is strong, you cannot be complacent in what you have achieved, and there is always room for continuous improvement and innovation. This applies the same way to designing: when a strong foundation is laid in the basic cheongsam form, can a designer then branches out to other fashion trends like the flare skirt for instance. Laichan is like the master ramen chef in Japan, who is always striving to perfect his craft, and the classic cheongsam form is his craft.

Laichan showed me a dress which he is working to refine before putting it on the rack. This is an amazing red cheongsam in a wool/synthetic knit that is pure gorgeous. It is not made in the conventional way because the fabric cannot be cut, otherwise it will unravel. Instead the dress is hand-knitted on a machine according to the specs give by Laichan. You will require a fabulous figure to wear it, given the figure-hugging material.

image

wpid-20150212_144625.jpg

Laichan’s staff have specific tasks when making the cheongsam or other attires: he has a couple of cutters and the rest are sewers. Eddie told me that the cutter is responsible for cutting out the fabric according to the draft, and this requires someone who is highly skilled. If a cutter doesn’t do her job well, regardless how good the sewing is, the attire will be out of shape. Of the cutting staff, one has been with the company for more than 30 years and is already 80 years old. I asked Laichan about looking for new cutting staff, and he admitted he hasn’t done so because he feels that the younger generations have different mind-set and they are very reluctant to take on the job. In fact he even admitted that he had no plan for anyone to succeed him.

Laichan hopes that with my blog, I can keep his work as well as the cheongsam culture alive.

Q&A with Laichan

Q: When and why did you start learning sewing?
A: I started designing first and sewing came along naturally. It started in the 80s and I am still excited that there is always something new to learn and improve on everyday.

Q: When and why did you learn to make and design the cheongsam?
A: I started designing Qipao for my mother back in the 80s. Qipaos were of the usual standard designs so I decided to rethink the way cheongsams are cut and made.

Q: What is the biggest challenge in designing the cheongsam?
A: The biggest challenge for designing the Qipao would be making the dress comfortable to wear while looking gorgeous at the same time.
The modern women lead an active lifestyle. The usual technique to cut and make a traditional Qipao does not allow the mobility and comfort.
I am constantly developing different cut and techniques and fabrication to make the Qipao wearable and flattering.

Q: Do you think that cheongsam designer must have the technical knowledge of sewing/tailoring?
A: It is helpful if the Qipao designer has some technical knowledge of sewing. Or at least a practical imagination of how the cut and tailoring can work for or against the woman wearing it.

Q: How do we attract more younger women to wear the cheongsam? Can the cheongsam be further modernized?
A: Basically, any woman younger or otherwise wants to look good wearing any type of dress. So one way to attract more younger women to wear the Qipao is to make it beautiful, practical and wearable.
I also believe that while the Qipao can be further modernised, it is equally important to respect the tradition and essence of the Qipao.

Q: What do you think of the proliferation of online cheongsam retailers offering modern versions like flare skirt,  addition of side pockets and shorter collar?
A: I think it is only natural when designers, myself included, start to offer variations of the Qipao with anything and everything possible for the consumers. Flare skirts flatter some women better, while the shorter collar are more comfortable.
However, such dresses that are totally modernised are just an ‘extension’ of the Qipao. The correct approach is not to remove too much of the original and replace with things foreign.
What is more challenging and interesting is to retain the essence of the Qipao while redeveloping the technique of the draft and cut to make it wearable and comfortable.
Anything else too unrecognisable from the original Qipao and without its DNA would not quite qualify as a Qipao anymore.

Q: What is the biggest influence in your designing?
A: My beautiful family and friends are my greatest influence and strength in my design.

Q: I notice that certain dresses have lining, but not others.  Like the light grey linen dress has lining, but not the cheongsam made from the Japanese fabric.
A: Yes the lining is there or excluded for various reasons, some of which are technical. They are left out or included intentionally.
Like the cheongsam in Japanese fabric (mix of cotton, viscose and lycra), the reason for not adding lining is to work with and not against the fabric. The lycra is in the fabric for comfort and stretch. Adding a layer of lining would restrict the effectiveness of the lycra.
Mobility is so much a part of a woman’s active lifestyle now, so this fabric choice is most suitable and appropriate.

Q: Where do you usually source your fabrics and what is the type of fabric that you most often use?
A: I source my fabrics from anywhere and everywhere so long as they are suitable. I usually consider the weight and texture of the fabric together with prints and colours.

Q: You have separate cutters and sewers. Can you have one person doing both, or is it better to separate the tasks with only the experienced person doing the cutting?
A: This is probably different from the earlier era when Qipaos were entirely made slowly by the one same old master tailor. Lifestyle and consumer demands are different now. The way any products, Qipao included, are made have undergone changes. The assembly line is organised to make the best of time, skill and talent for both practical and economical reasons.

Q: your brother told me that you have a reason for making each dress. What is your reason for making the red knitted cheongsam? 
A: The reason remains the same. It is always the continuous search and exploration to develop new Qipao for the future. Can the traditional Qipao find itself relevant now and in the distant future. If it does not move ahead, will it be left behind? I cannot take un-calculated risks to assume it can be relevant based on its original form. I have to keep it alive and that would include both the very original and its new improved versions.

I like to end here by expressing my deepest gratitude to both Laichan and Eddie for allowing me to put up this post. It has been a wonderful experience knowing both.

Finally, given that today is Chinese New Year eve, I like to wish everybody a great and healthy year ahead!

A medley of cheongsams for the young and old

Two Fridays ago, a friend sent me a link to an article from Her World Plus, featuring cheongsams from 11 stores, with prices ranging from the cheap to expensive. I notice that, other than one (Intoxiquette), I had featured these retailers in my blog. Personally, I feel it was a half-hearted article, and the writer could have chosen better pictures to feature the dresses. Anyway I’m doing my own medley of cheongsam selections for both the kids and adults, so that you can still go for some last minute shopping.

Before I begin, I want to say that I have thought about how I can showcase better cheongsam pictures. Seriously, some of the window display photos suck because of the glass reflection. After advice from my husband, I decided that the  best way is to approach the retailers (for the established brands) to request for website or FB photos. So that was what I did, and I’m happy to say that some retailers have agreed: Mama & Misse, Dayglow Vintage, and Jobs and Shop (this online retailer finally got back to me with approval).

First, let’s start off with Bloom B, a children boutique, which I think is from Singapore. I say this because there is no mention on where it originated from in the website, and the store locations are mainly in Singapore, with one in Malaysia.
wpid-20150119_132543.jpg

image

The cheongsam dresses for the little girls are rather pretty, except for the one with the glittery waist band. (Really, what’s with shiny objects and the female species?) Bloomb B dresses go for above S$60.

Over at Château de Sable, a French children boutique, there is a set of Chinese New Year clothes for the little girl, boy and baby, in salmon red with sheep print. I thought they look rather adorable despite the simple design. Goes to show that simple can be beautiful. And they are all below S$60, which is competitive to the online retailers

image

image

image

Then there are the little cheongsams which can be considered as the mini “getai” (stage show) dresses. Goes to show the adults can transplant their gaudiness to kids.

image

Now for the adult’s selections. Shanghai Tang has some early arrivals of their SS2015 collection. I like the design of below black dress that also comes in white, and it has such a pretty side knot. But I am more amazed by the price, which is S$1153. I did a little research, and found out that the textured jacquard fabric used (even though it is polyester in nature) is rather expensive. (Jacquard weaving requires time, specialized skill and expensive machinery.) At the same time, I learned that there are merits to polyester fabrics: fast drying, wrinkle resistant, stretch resistant and very durable. By the way, I am not marketing the cheongsam for ST, because, personally, I wouldn’t pay this price for a mass-produced dress.
image

For a less formal look, here’s a dress from ST with a much shorter collar and in silk/cotton knit at less than S$500.
image

I haven’t covered Sissae for quite some time. Here are a couple of the cheongsams from the latest Eurasian Doll collecton. Sissae’s dresses are characterized by formal and loud designs with a modern twist.
image
image

When I contacted Mama & Misse, to allow me to use its website and FB pictures, I was half expecting no response. So it was a pleasant surprise to get a ready agreement considering I didn’t ask for permission the last time. (I first wrote about M&M in my post “The Search For Cheongsams” dated 6 Aug.) The designer/founder turns out to be a pretty nice person with a good sense of humor.

M&M sees itself as a team and does not differentiate or feature anyone in particular. The email replies are always signed off as “Mama & Misse”, and the word “we” is used when describing how they work, and so I shall follow as well.

I was told by M&M that they design all their dresses, prepare the drafts, and they are also the seamstresses. Their cheongsams lean toward the classic form, and this is what they believe the cheongsam to be. Instead of changing the form, they use fabrics to give the dress a modern twist by using colors and prints. Though there are trimmings such as lace, they are more subtle. M&M sourced their fabrics locally, ranging from the Indian sari to French lace. Their cheongsams cost at least S$250 for those in cotton and more than S$400 for those with French lace.
image

image

image

Here is one of the latest CNY dresses from M&M, which I thought the design and print are a little too traditional for me.
image

Now for the more affordable cheongsams in the mid-range. I was alerted by a reader to the qipaos from Dayglow Vintage. I had heard of this online retailer but did not look into the dresses closely, so I contacted the site. Lilian, the designer/founder responded readily in agreememt to my request to use her pictures. She is also willing to share information with me, which I am very appreciative.

From her profile in the website, I found out Lilian was a seamstress before starting the Dayglow Vintage (DV) online store, and she designs clothes, including cheongsams, under the “Dayglow” label. Perhaps it is her sewing background that makes Lilian rather particular when it comes to the fabrics. She mostly uses 100% cotton fabric from USA, and will soak the yards of materials to pre-shrink them and test for color fastness. Her design process starts with drawing out the design, and once she is happy with how it looks, she prepares a life-size draft, then the pre-production sample, and finally send it to the seamstress.

Lilian strives to bring perfection to the dresses she created for her customers. I want to put on the record that I have not seen any of them, but the reader who brought DV to my attention is a regular customer. She told me the dresses are of good quality and reasonable pricing. Personally I think the comment on quality is likely to be true. I find that designers who have backgrounds as a seamstress or tailor are meticulous in their quality process. They understand the technicality, and able to use that to improve their designs and know what works.

On the cheongsams from DV, to be honest, I’m not particularly wowed by the retro styles. Maybe it’s because I’m not a big fan of the look. But one interesting observation I have of the website  is that Lilian provided pretty detailed description and specifications of each dress, which is rather rare. So the customers get full details of the dress before buying.

The following dress “A Date With Spring” is currently sold out but still available on a pre-order basis before CNY.
image

This dress below, Caffe Lady, has been very popular and is now sold out.
image

A couple of the current cheongsams:

image


Nine Lives Cheongsam

image


See You At The Bund cheongsam

For those going for budget cheongsams, there is a limited selection from Joop boutique , which has many outlets located in malls, one of which is at Raffles City. The dresses are less than S$70 each.
image

image

For even cheaper cheongsams at less than S$30, there is Job and Shop . Like what I mentioned in my post on cheap cheongsams dated 13 Jan, the style reflects the price. I am definitely not a target customer.
image

image

image

Before I end off, I like to inform everyone that May Loh from Walking In May is organizing a first campaign for her blog site called ‘#CheongsamConfidence’. She is requesting women to wear the cheongsam on the second day of Chinese New Year (20 Feb), to make a step towards positive body image since the cheongsam is known to be a challenging dress and unforgiving to its wearer. When May approached me, I told her that being positive about your own body means wearing clothes that fit you well. The wearer has to know what her physique is and find the right design. Though a master cheongsam designer can help to hide the flaws and accentuate the assets (as long as the flaws are not overly excessive), but the master’s work comes with a price.  Well, I’m still supportive of women coming out in cheongsams and I’m sure that will be a sight that harks back to the heyday of the dress.
image

Checking out the Clothier Cheongsams (Updated)

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from Ping, the owner of Cloth.ier, inviting me to her boutique to look at the collections for Chinese New Year. For those not aware, Clothier was one of the first dedicated cheongsam shops in Singapore. They used to have a few outlets located at Raffles Place, Parkway Parade, Great World City and Liang Court. I had been to all except for the one at Great World City.

In those days, 6 or 7 years ago, Clothier offered cheongsam tops, jackets and dresses in the clsssic form. (I know I sound like an old foggy recounting history here.) There was none of the modern forms like the pleated or flare skirt or A-line silhouette. In fact, if you wanted to wear the cheongsam then, there was only the traditional straight fit available, albeit with back zip.

There was this time the boutique launched an iconic cheongsam which is still featured on its website. To this day, I remember the poster featuring that beautiful floral printed dress hung prominently at Chevron House (then known as Caltex House). I was immediately attracted to it, and so checked out the Raffles Place outlet. The dress was made of raw silk and so rather expensive (off hand I can’t remember the price but it was probably more than S$250). I thought about it long and hard, and finally bought the dress. So here’s me in the cheongsam for the company’s Dinner and Dance, passing off as the character played by Maggie Cheung in the movie “In The Mood For Love”. image

Since that purchase, I also bought another Clothier cheongsam. Unfortunately, due to difficult retail conditions (high rental), Ping had to close down the stores, the last one being the Great World City outlet in 2012. Instead, she focused on the brand, JiXiangZhai (吉祥斋), a franchise that she brought into Singapore in 2011. The boutique is located at the Shoppes @ Marina Bay Sands (#01-69), and carries Clothier ‘s products as well.

Except for the initial posts on cheongsams, I didn’t mention Clothier because I wasn’t aware of the JiXiangZhai boutique. It was only sometimes in September last year that a reader told me about the Clothier pop up store at Takashimaya, and the JXZ boutique at MBS. However I didn’t have time to check out Takashimaya until end December, but there was no pop up store to be found. It was only when I met up with Ping that she explained that she only set them up during the September/October months, and during the CNY period at major department stores like Isetan and Takashimaya. For the rest of the year, customers will have to go to the JXZ boutique.

Before I met with Ping, I thought I would likely spend an hour or less checking out the products. But turned out we had a good discussion for more than 1.5 hours. Clothier has both the mid and high-end dresses available. For the mid range, there are the casual polyester printed dresses and tops, as well as the stretch cotton cheongsams. Ping didn’t want to go direct to the supplier for the polyester fabrics since the market is flooded with these cheapr materials. So she created her own prints and went directly to the fabric manufacturer to have the textiles made. This way, it ensures that the prints are not used by other retailers. The polyester dress is selling fot S$128, and there is a 15% discount at all stores. All designs are rather modern, and even the mandarin collar height is short. Personally I think those dresses in the top picture are pretty alright, but I have reservations on those in the bottom picture. I don’t fancy casual ankle length dresses. At such length, they look rather matronly. image image

For the cotton dresses, Ping buys the whole bale, with the same rationale that other retailers wouldn’t have the same prints. To be exact, the fabric is stretch cotton, and there is no lining to optimize the wearer’s comfort. The cotton cheongsam is retailed at S$148, before 15% discount, though I think the halter neck dress is cheaper. In fact the halter neck is 90% cotton and 10% lycra.

image

Another picture of the halter neck cheongsam in black. Next to it is a qipao top with water color print in polyester, and the sleeves and back in cotton/lycra knit. I think the cotton dresses make for good casual wear, like on Friday or weekends, and besides you don’t have to dry clean them. There are only a few retailers offering good quality cotton cheongsams in the classic form. So Clothier is a good place to check out for a dress which is not too expensive.

image

At Clothier, the high-end silk cheongsams have the typical floral prints. There is no dresses of the raw silk fabric like the one used in the iconic dress because the material is rather expensive, and many customers cannot appreciate it. (As I don’t have the dress with me now, I can’t say for sure the type of silk fabric. But from my recollection, it might be Thai silk.) The fabric has a coarse or nubby texture because of its characteristics, and many customers thought these were defects. So they asked to look at all the iconic stocks available to select one with the least nubs.

But on the existing silk fabrics (which I think are from China), Ping has no advantage on their exclusivity. They are also more fragile and there is a filmy cotton backing to strenthen it. When Ping showed me the dresses, she admitted that the below yellow print might have been on an Elegente cheongsam as well. These silk qipaos go for S$328 each.
image image image

When Ping asked me for my thoughts on the collections, I told her that I found the silk dresses rather conventional. They don’t stand out, and I can’t differentiate them from those offered by Elegente (the fact that there is a similar piece of fabric is an indication) or even those available on Taobao.com. In fact they are also similar to those qipaos from Allure and Fraiche. This is unlike those from Hana or Vougeois. As I mentioned in my previous post on high-end cheongsams, Hana’s dresses tend to be a little loud, a little over the top; whereas Vougeois’ come in block colors and even the trimmings like sequins tend to be of similar color tone. So they have their distinctive characteristics.

Ping told me that she had considered going the modern route like what many of the online retailers are doing, such as making pleated or flared skirt cheongsams, but that is not what she is good at. I told her that there are absolutely gorgeous silk printed cheongsams in the classic form, and I had featured them in one of my earlier blogs. So for her, she should aim to provide the best clsssic cheongsams in the market, which will then become a way for her to differentiate herself. I also suggested that she checks out the European fashion shows to get ideas, which she can then incorporate into her cheongsams.

I was also shown the collections from JiXiangZhai (吉祥斋), which are much more expensive. Apparently the silk fabrics are spun with a type of incense ashes and so they have a brownish grey tone with a sheen. Looking at the style, I have to say it is rather traditional and a little ornate, despite the designer trying to go modern. I have seen a Chinese fashion designer coming up with sophisticated western attires, but when it comes to the cheongsam, I haven’t seen any that would be considered as sophisticated as those from Shanghai Tang. (I’m sorry to say but ST is a western brand, because the Swiss Richemont Group purchased it in 1998.)

Ping revealed to me that she has had a cheongsam designed for the plus size women, and sold on Zalora. Unfortunately she doesn’t have the stock picture to provide. It comes in black and white and the former was sold out rather quickly. I’m glad that she has thought of modifying the cheongsam for bigger women since many of the existing designs don’t work well on the big physique.

(Updated on 7 Feb)
Yesterday Ping sent me pictures of a loose cheongsam design, not so much for plus size ladies, but modeled on the M size. It has elbow length sleeves and is catered to those who are not keen on a figure hugging dress. The fabric seems to drape on the bodice unlike a muu-muu, and I think this gives a nice shape for plus size women. By the way, these dresses are sold out at the retail outlets and only available on Zalora.com.
image
image

The upmarket cheongsams

On the upmarket/expensive cheongsams, which I classify as those priced above S$250, there are (interestingly) quite a number of shops offering them out there. Does this mean there is a significant market for them? One interesting observation is that most of these high-end cheongsams are in the classic form.

Hana is one which offers excellent quality and one of a kind cheongsams (unique pieces) at the cost of an arm and a leg. Each dress goes for more than S$1,600! The dresses are generally rather old-style; they have the traditional high collars, with front opening, and without piping or fabric buttons. The prints tend to be loud, and some dresses have embroidery or beads on them. In fact you can say the dresses are practically shouting “look at me!”, but they are reminiscent of the cheongsams wore by Maggie Cheung in the movie “In The Mood For Love”.

image
image

For quite some time, Hana didn’t featured cheongsam dresses at the window display, but tops.
image
image

image

I do not know how much the tops are, but I won’t be surprised they cost a limb too. To be honest, I don’t find the designs very appealing, but the workmanship is really good and material quality is top notch.

Finally yesterday, I spotted a cheongsam on display, blue lace with fuchsia pink flowers overlay on fuchsia pink under-fabric. image

Another boutique similar to Hana is Lai Chan at Raffles Hotel. I had only checked out the boutique once, but couldn’t take any pictures because there was no cheongsam at the window display. I guess I can approach the designer to ask for approval or images.

Anyway, if you baulk at paying a four-figure sum for a cheongsam but is still willing to splurge on a good quality dress at half the price or a few hundred bucks, there are a number of boutiques for you to choose from. There is Blum, which has many stores around the island. In fact there are two within Raffles Place. I have to give it to them for sourcing fabrics with such gorgeous prints. In fact many of the dresses look rather regal, and you can  wear one of them to a royal party and still stand out.

For this coming Chinese New Year, I must say the dresses look pretty good in general, unlike previous years where there were hits and misses. But I think this is because the designers are sticking to the tried and tested classic form. The dresses are in the range of S$350 to S$400, and I understand that the top fabric is silk whereas the lining is polyester. image wpid-20150127_101444.jpg wpid-20150119_132236.jpgwpid-2015-01-28-09.05.31.jpg wpid-20150125_102258.jpgimage imageimage

Over at One Raffles Place (ORP), there are a couple of shops offering the high-end cheongsams on the 4th level. One is Vougeois (#04-20), which has been around for a number of years. Their dresses range from S$279 to S$399, with the the top material being natural silk and the lining is man-made silk.

image

image

When I first saw the blue dress above, I didn’t think much of it because it looks like a plain classic cheongsam. But there was a lady fitting on the same dress in green color (slight peek in the picture), and I thought she looked pretty good in it. That got me tempted by the dress, or maybe it’s the color.

Vougeois cheongsams are either in block colors, suitable as office wear, or with some embroidery or beading, good for formal occasions, and they come with high collars as well. Though they cater to the modern women because they have hidden back zip for easy wear.

During one of my previous recent post, I featured one of the Vougeois cheongsams which I felt had sloppy seams along the hemline. So this time I did a quick check and found the quality to be better.

There is a relatively new boutique at ORP called “Amanda” (named after the owner), located at #04-33/34. A couple of weeks ago, I walked past it and found cheongsams hanging on the racks. Went in to check out, but couldn’t take any pictures because the staff told me that permission was needed from the owner.

I was there again, yesterday, and luckily Amanda was around, and she gladly allowed me to do so. There are not a lot of selections as it seems the mainstay of the boutique is office wear, and I suppose cheongsams are added because of CNY. Most of the qipaos are in the straight-fit design though there is one with flare skirt. Amanda offers a mix of mid-range and high-end cheongsams.

The top two designs shown below are more than S$250, in fact the black colored dress is more than S$300. This is because the fabric is a mix of wool and silk. Personally I prefer the maroon/brownish dress in the traditional form, which is more elegant than the black colored one. But perhaps it’s my bias for the classic look.

imageimage

As for the two dresses below, they fall under the mid-range pricing (less than S$200), because of the fabric used: cotton or silk-polyester mix.
image image

Now, let’s move to Raffles City mall where the Allure boutique (#02-11) is located. The cheongsams are of silk fabrics and tend to be a little shorter. Again the tried and tested classic design, with simple trimmings.

image

Further down is Tong Tong Store at level one of Shaw Tower. The designs veer toward the avant garde, and somw of them are so modernized that one can hardly tell that they are cheongsams.
image

image

Tong Tong have cheongsams in either cotton fabrics or brocade, and even for those in the former, you have to fork out S$339 for one, and another hundred bucks more for the brocade dress. This year, Tong Tong is also offering cheongsam dresses and tops for little girls, and they go for more than S$100.

image image

To be honest, I’m not sure how TT justify the high-end pricing for the cotton cheongsams. I know that studio 55 also offers cotton cheongsams at similar pricing, but I have seen their fabrics and they are almost like silk. Really soft and luxurious to the touch, and for that I can understand the higher price point. But I guess every boutiques have their loyal customers. In fact, now that CNY is arriving in a few weeks’ time, many of the shops are bustling with customers trying out the cheongsams.

So you can see from the above designs, despite the dresses being in the classic form, the cheongsams from the different boutique are really different from each other. The type of fabrics used, the prints, the trimmings, etc, allow the shops to provide unique offerings to the customers.

Anyway there are more high-end cheongsam shops out there, like Ong Shunmugam, and Cloth.ier as well as online store like Elegente , etc. I will approach some of these designers to request for use of their images for a post on a medley of cheongsams before CNY, and hopefully will get some positive responses. (I will feature Clothier products in my next post.)

The mid-range cheongsams (Updated)

After featuring cheap cheongsams in an earlier post from both online and actual stores dated 13 January, I will now showcase those in the mid-range pricing. So what do I mean by this? I see mid-range as anything from around S$90 to S$200.

Within this category, there are the online boutiques dedicated to the cheongsams like The Happy Cheongsam, Our Bitsy Prints, Joli Pretty, Lark & Peony, and The Lady General etc. For actual stores, other than Clothier, which currently is available via pop-up stores or the boutique of Ji Xiang Ju, I can’t think of any other dedicated brands that offer dresses within this range. However this being Chinese New Year season, there are a number of boutiques taking the opportunity to offer cheongsams to shoppers, and so, we now have a wider selections to choose from.

Most cheongsam within the mid range are of cotton material, with some in polyester. The Happy Cheongsam and Joli Pretty have offered silk cheongsams at the higher end of this range, and I guess they can do it because of lower operating cost for being an online retailer.

Joli Pretty (JP) launched their second CNY collection last week, and the designs are nothing new, like these below.
image
image
image

Though it looks like the customers don’t mind, because all except one dress are sold out. The only new design is this cheongsam dress with front pockets, and I must say I like the functional office wear look.
image

While thinking over the online cheongsam designers, I recalled The Girl’s Kaksh (TGK), which I had only mentioned once or twice in my blog. I contacted the designer, Audrey, to request to feature her clothes but she replied that she was not ready. (I guess my opinions can be a little too intimidating.) Anyway I found out that she has a studio where she provides private shopping (in her words) to interested ladies.

It so happens that there is a series of shopping sessions this weekend. So I went over during lunch time today to check out the clothes. By the way, there is no pictures because I couldn’t take any and I didn’t get any permission. However you can check out the dresses in TGK’s Facebook page.

Anyway my first impression of the collection is that it reminds me of those from Tong Tong Friendship Store (and I was at the shop to check out the latest launch yesterday), a little whimsy, a little quirky. TT’s designs are inspired by Chinese folk arts and I see similar themes in many of TGK’s dresses as well. Though for the latter, Audrey didn’t just have dresses or tops, but also rompers. Other than the tops, they are priced at above S$160, but below S$200 except for one dress which is only slightly more. For comparison, here’s a dress from TT.
image

I guess, for those who like TT’s designs, they can go for cheaper options at TGK, which is half the price. (At TT, even cotton cheongsams are going for more than S$300.) By the way, I will feature TT dresses in my post on the expensive cheongsams, which will be up soon.

At TGK, all dresses are unique in that they are all one-off. I guess for the price you pay, that is pretty good since you are getting a dress which no one else has it. But it also means there isn’t really any sizing, and it may or may not fit you. In fact, more than likely, it doesn’t, and TGK will alter at a cost. I enquired about one dress (just to get a gauge of the pricing), and was told the collar doesn’t fit me well and would require customized tailoring. The cost for that starts from S$220. Though I wonder if that means there will be a duplicate of the same dress.

If you are the sort who prefer to shop as and when you like and try on a dress before buying, you can check out the actual boutiques instead. But almost all of them offer the usual traditional/classic straight fit cheongsams. Like Fraiche at Raffles City (3rd level), with the typical floral print dresses.
image

Another is Flourish at One Raffles Place (4th level), which has both silk (~S $250) and non-silk cheongsams (~S $150). I have to say I have reservations about such short, body-hugging dresses, which seem more appropriate for KTV hostess.
image

image

Then, of course, there is Miz Apparels.
image

There are some rather gaudy looking designs from other standalone boutiques, which wouldn’t look out of place at a “getai” show.
image
image

The only boutique which has a different albeit interesting design is Seven (at Chevron House ground level). Strangely, the store doesn’t offer much cheongsam selections, unlike previous year. Maybe they didn’t sell so well.
image

For dedicated cheongsam store, Cloth.ier has polyester dresses with in-house prints. These are slightly more than S$100, but at least you can be sure that you won’t see the prints anywhere else unless the fabric manufacturer offers to other buyers.
image

Clothier also has stretch cotton cheongsams at slightly higher prices. I visited the shop at the invite of the owner, Ping, and she kindly explained to me her collections and the work that went into making them. I will review the dresses in a separate post.
image

(Update)
I just spotted a really whimsical dress on Miz Apparels’ FB page and it’s tempting me!
image
This year being the year of the sheep, the print is really fitting! The dress is S$159. You can also get a cute sheep brooch to go with it.

Cheongsams and mandarin tops for the little ones

Now that Chinese New Year is slightly more than a month away, the mommies are getting the wardrobe ready for the festival, not just for themselves but also for the little ones. The enviable thing about kids is that it doesn’t matter what their sizes are, whether chubby or thin, they just look so cute in the mini cheongsams or mandarin tops! Too bad the adults don’t have the luxury of such flexibility. Many mothers are excited by the increasing selections of matching cheongsam available to them and their daughters at brick and mortar stores, such as Miz Apparels (MA), or online boutiques like The Happy Cheongsam or Our Bitsy Prints. I have previously featured a couple of matching sets from MA in earlier posts. Here are more offerings from them. (Thanks to Lynn from MA who sent me half the photos here.) Some of the dresses even come with matching brooches. image image image For the first time, MA is launching mandarin-collared shirts for boys. There are even a matching set for mother, daughter and son. Like the above panda print comes in a boy top as well. image Here is a full set with prints of a teddy bear on a train. (I still feel it is too kiddy for an adult.) image

image

At MA, the little cheongsam is S$69, mandarin top is S$55.90, and mama dress is S$159. However this below mama dress (featured in “The Cheongsam goes kiddy for spring” on 5 Jan) is selling for S$169, because, according to Lynn, the fabric is more expensive. image If you are looking for a little cheongsam as a gift, or not planning to get any matching set, you can check out the children boutiques instead. I have recently found out about three online kiddy cloth stores, which offer cheongsams for the little girls, and Mandarin-collared shirts for the boys. All of them have kindly allowed me to lift images from their sites. First to be introduced is Baby Pixie , set up by two friends, which sells baby and children clothes, bedding and little gifts like coin purse and tissue holders. According to the website, the products are mainly made in Singapore. Our Bitsy Prints are selling a matching daughter dress from the latest CNY collection – the red Lovey print. Shown here is the pleated cheongsam dress. (I featured the straight cheongsam version in my post “The Cheongsam goes kiddy for spring dated 5 Jan.) image As you can see, Baby Pixie offer two designs for each fabric: the straight cheongsam (S$45) and the pleated cheongsam dress (S$48). imageimage image image There is also the matching girl and boy wear for siblings. It’s cheongsam for the girl and mandarin-collared shirt for the boy (S$46 for the dress and S$35 for the shirt).

: imagewpid-BS023-crib_crab_large.jpg

There are standalone prints such as these below.

image image Next, I like to feature Chubby Chubby, which in addition to clothes, offers products like baby bibs, booties, and toys, etc. CC’s cheongsams prints are the most interesting of the three online stores; they are a little retro, a little whimpsical. The dresses go for S$54.90, while the shirts are S$45.90.

Flower CheongsamRetro_Red_pockets Oriental_BlossomOriental Orange Below is the sibling set, which is the only brother-sister matching clothes available. Retro Triangle Triangle shirt If you are not into matching prints, then you can choose from standalone options. image image

There are baby girl onesie cheongsams, and they look really sweet! They are priced like the dresses, at S$54.90. image image For this CNY, Nix Deng of CC has designed red packets (or “Ang Pows”) to give away for any purchase. I like the greeting on it, which is different from the usual ones: 快乐成长 (growing up happily). image

Elly’s Children Outfitters have pretty similar products to CC and slightly more. For one, there are more sibling selections. What I don’t understand about Elly is why the upcoming CNY collection is not featured in its website but on its blog. And even then, the prices are not listed and instead available on its Facebook page. Why can’t they make it easierfor customers? The dresses are more expensive at Elly, S$65 for those 9 months to 4 years old, and S$69 for 5 and 7 years old, whereas boy shirts are S$45. The onesies for baby girls are not in the cheongsam design, and are priced at S$45 as well. image Swallows Fans

Our Bitsy Prints had also collaborated with Elly in one of their earlier collections, using the print, Monet Melody. The little dress

is shown below, though the adult version is not available now.

Monet Melody

Elly also offer slings for little girls which match their dresses.

image

In an earlier post, I mentioned that MA offer the prettiest cheongsam dresses in the market, and I still do. But they are rather formal, and more suitable for special occasions. So for a casual everyday wear, the online boutiques would make better choices. Though I must have to admit that if I have to pay S$69 or thereabouts, I might as well get a MA dress. Some may think that MA’s little Cheongsam dresses are really for older girls aged 5 and above. Yes they are designed for that range, but MA offers free alteration for younger girls. I myself have bought a dress for a 2 years old niece. What the seamstress did was to fold up the skirt to form a bubble hemline, which can be adjusted down as the little girl gets older. So the dress grows with the girl. Anyway, regardless of these retailers featured, the clothes are way better than the cheap ching-chong style that you see some kids wear during Chinese New Year, like these below.

imageimage

Cheongsams on the cheap (updated)

As the preparation for Chinese New Year gets underway, almost every boutiques are launching the cheongsams, whether online or otherwise, which is a sign for an increased interest in the dress, even if it’s just for CNY.

Recently, it has come to my attention that there are a number of ladies who consider cheongsams above S$100 as expensive. I am not sure if they realize that it is not easy to design/make a good cheongsam and you have to pay for the workmanship. I guess they may be so price-conscious that they don’t mind compromising on the quality.

There are cheongsams available for below S$100, even below S$50. I have previously looked at cheap cheongsams from Qoo10 or Taobao, but the dresses available  tend to be those designed and made in China, and you can tell by the typical floral-printed straight-cut fit which looks rather dowdy. Lately, I have discovered a few Singapore-based online boutiques selling working dresses for women, and they are also offering cheongsams for the festive celebration: Dressabelle, Job and Shop, and Alyssandra. I contacted all of them to request if I could lift images of their sites for this post, but only Dressabelle reverted with approval. The other two didn’t respond. (Update: Alyssandra wrote in a comment in the evening after this post was published, that an email was sent to me to approve of using the images. Photos now shown below.)

Dressabelle, in its website, claims that it offers quality clothes for the working women, and  it updates the products eight times a month, providing more than 240 items each month. It also offers free shipping locally and internationally. However there are not many cheongsam selections available (yet), and they come in either the straight-fit cut or with pleated / flare skirt, and material is mostly polyester cotton. All are below S$40.

Dressabelle Black cheongsam Dressabelle crochet red Dressabelle maroon red Dressabelle striped pink

I have seen a young lady wearing the above striped pink cheongsam, and I can’t say it makes her look good.

Since I didn’t receive any approvals from Job and Shop, as well as Alyssandra, I can’t use their site images, which are copyrighted. (I figure it’s best not to risk a lawsuit.) But you can check out for yourself. My views are that for J&S, the cheongsams are no different to those offerings on qoo10 or Taobao, and the prices reflect so because they are all below S$30. As for Alyssandra, the designs are somewhat similar to those from Dressabelle, but slightly better, and they are priced between S$59 and S$65.

(Update: I have been given approval by Alyssandra to use the web images.) Here are some of the cheongsams available. There is quite a wide selections which include the traditional straight-fit cut, the pleated skirts, and also the mermaid hemline. Material is cotton-polyester blend.)

 Pink cheongsamOrange and green cheongsam

Lace cheongsamPleated cheongsam

Over at Raffles Xchange, the retail space of Raffles Place train station, the boutique, The Showcase, offers cheap options like these below, priced below S$52.
image

image
image

I was able to check out the quality, and let’s just say that you get what you pay for.

Next door is Mochamp, another purveyor of cheap cheongsams, at less than S$50.
image

My personal view is that if you want to look good during CNY or for a special occasion, it is best to get a well-made cheongsam that is either unique or limited in quantity. It is also to be expected that you have to pay more, since you are getting a quality product. After all, a beautifully-made cheongsam is like an heirloom, something to be treasured.

However if you are only keen on an everyday outfit, something to be discarded after a few wears, then go ahead and get the cheap dress. Though you may find that it is not worth paying S$40 for a dress which you dump after a year, when you can get a good one for (say) S$200 and keep it over several years. I have a number of beautiful cheongsams which I have owned for at least four years.

Getting cheongsam-pretty for CNY

Blum has launched some really gorgeous looking cheongsam for spring, and they are tempting me. Though at more than S$300 price range, I am holding back. I would rather wait for the sale, which doesn’t happen often, and usually the selection is limited. But at 50% off, it is quite a good deal. So for the time being, it’s feasting for the eyes.

Here are a couple of orchid-themed dresses available.
image

image
The Japanese trend continues.

image
image
image

I love this regal-looking blue cheongsam with dragon print and lace sleeves. This is fit for royalty!
image
This batik inspired ethnic print is beautiful as well.
image
Still, I have to admit that Blum cheongsams are rather formal, and may even be a little too formal for work. If you have fallen in love with any of them, you can consider getting it for a special occasion.

For something that can be worn on a regular basis; I like Lark & Peony’s new collection for the year (finally) which has some beautiful prints. This will be launched today, featuring cheongsams with pleated skirts and straight-cut fit. The formers are of the “Rhapsodie Bohemienne” range which has vibrant ethic prints, and the latters are of the Princess series.

L&P’s designer, Junie, had kindly allowed me to have a preview yesterday and take photos. Here are some of the Bohemienne dresses, taken from L&P FB page. When I first saw them, I love the colors and the patterns that are reminiscence of South/Central Asian cultures.
image

image

Upon seeing the actual dresses, I realize the colors are not as bright as in the pictures (probably due to lighting), but they are richer.
image
I asked to try the gold colored dress.
image

I have to say I really like the contrast of gold background against the pastel green piping, and the vibrant patterns along the hem. And the side pockets also won me over. (I have a preference for dresses with pockets now.) The cotton material is rather comfortable too, though the waist is a little tight (it might be because it sits a little lower because of the cut). I asked to try a bigger size, but Ruth (Junie’s team member) advised otherwise as it would be too big for me.

I was also interested in the Princess dress, which was launched late last year, and this time, it comes in red, fuchsia pink and royal blue colors. It is not lined as the material is stretchy.

image

Bright red color for CNY.

I tried on the pink dress.
image

Unfortunately it doesn’t fit well on me. I think the design is more suited for ladies with hour glass figure, and I am not voluptuous enough for it. The sleeves and collars are too wide for me as well. A pity.

While I was there, Ruth showed me another design that was not available on FB or the online site. This is in the clsssic cut – straight fit, but with interesting juxtaposition of fabrics. I understand that Junie spent six months on this design to get it right, because it was rather difficult to incorporate the odd-shaped panels into the main fabric.
image
image

Notice how the two batik fabric panels, running down from the waist to the upper legs, help to accentuate the waist. But I wanted to reconsider this piece, because, admittedly, it didn’t jump out at me.

At the end, I bought the gold dress, which would be altered by shortening it by an inch at the shoulders. This way, the waist will be raised slightly and sits more comfortably on my bodice. And it will also fix the puckering fabric on the back.

Like Blum, L&P offers alteration service at no extra cost. The latter will also courier the dress to you (within Singapore) free as well.