The modern cheongsam

The traditional figure-hugging straight cut cheongsam can be a rather unforgiving dress; it exposes any unflattering parts of a woman’s physique for all to see. Though, under the hands of a master tailor, he or she (mostly he) can help to mitigate, to a certain extent, with excellent tailoring skill. Gary from Kang’s Boutique is one such skillful tailor who can somewhat hide the flaws, but there are limits of course. Luckily the modern version of the iconic dress has become accommodating of the real world physique.

Even though the straight-cut is still the dominant design for the cheongsam, increasingly there are deviations and they are gaining popularity. The flare skirt is one such modern design that is flattering to women with big hip and it also helps to hide the tummy. To help women decide on which design is right for their body shape, Our Bitsy Prints has a dress guide for the different physiques.

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Below is me in a flare skirt cheongsam called “Light pink eyelet on blue batik”, which the ladies at OBP gave me in a very generous gesture, after I wrote about their collection in the post “A cheongsam review” dated 9 September.

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For the record, the OBP ladies actually suggested a few options for me and I chose this batik print because I didn’t have a cheongsam like this. I’ve been looking around for a couple of casual-wear and so this design is what I’m looking for even though it has a flare skirt. But I’m getting more open now to go for something different, and anyway the top conforms to the traditional cut with snap buttons and fabric buttons on the front panel opening, as well as the side zip. The only thing about this dress is I’m not sure why it’s called “Light pink eyelet” since the top is white colored to me, unless I’m having color blindness. I decided not to match the dress with a necklace but instead paired it with a brooch from Tong Tong.

OBP has launched their latest collection on their website on 8 November, but because they had a preview on their Facebook page a few days earlier, most of the sizes are sold out by now. Anyway Melanie gave me a hint on their new designs in late October, and one of them reverts to the traditional straight-cut look. Last week, she sent me one of the dresses. It is a purple lace on black lining cheongsam with a back zip, and a peplum design that was not obvious from one of the top photos she sent me earlier.

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To be honest I was not impressed when I saw this design (“Nikhita’s Roses series”) for the first time. I find the peplum look over-used; every other dress or top out there has it. Can we please have something different? The purple and black color combination is also a little too dark for me. I wanted to return the dress immediately to Melanie, but thought I would show it to my secret fashion guru (AKA my husband) for a second opinion. Melanie urged me to try the dress and I might change my mind after, as some of her friends who had a preview of the designs felt this color combination is the best of the three.

After I tried it on, it just confirms my feel that this dress is not for me. The length is simply too long at below the knee. My husband took one look and exclaimed that the dark color combination was too matronly-looking, made worse by the long length. He remarked that the dress made me looked older, and that is a big No-No! Unlike me though, my husband thought the peplum is an interesting touch. He suggested that the dress should be a lighter color like shimmery gold or beige to have a more youthful look, and it should be above the knee and fitting to the bodice. So I returned it to Melanie and gave her my husband’s advice. I also showed him the picture of the other colors but he is also dismissive of them. He feels that it is the young, slim and pretty model who saves the dress from looking downright dowdy. (Unfortunately, a lot of time, women associate themselves with the model and buy a fashion piece thinking they can carry it off.)

The other design of OBP, which is unique (at least I have not seen anything like this anywhere else), is the mini denim cheongsam.

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Melanie told me that they designed this for the younger crowd to get them interested in the cheongsam. I think this is an adorable dress, and the combination of the denim and cheongsam is an interesting one and will appeal to the younger ladies. I guess OBP must be testing the market with this design because they only launch two prints. I nicknamed the other print “Minnie Mouse” dress. When Melanie first showed me the picture, I don’t know why but Minnie Mouse came to mind. Later when Melanie was watching the Disney Junior Club program, she had a Eureka moment.

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A couple of days ago I was contacted by this Singaporean lady, Junie Yeo, who’s living in Tokyo. Junie has set up an online boutique selling modern cheongsam with a partner/s for a year, and it’s called Lark and Peony. I guess it must be her friends who alerted her to my blog because she told me a few of them like my cheongsam posts. She invited me to check out the website to give my feedback.

The online shop of L&P is rather sophisticated, with multiple views of the dresses and there’s even a magnifying function available just by clicking on each picture. Strangely the sizes are not standardized; some dresses are only in size S, M, L , and others include petite or XL. The current collection is the conventional pleated skirt and A-line skirt designs, which reminds me a little of those from OBP. But unlike the latter, the dresses at L&P are wholly modern where there are a concealed back zip and side pockets. The fabric is either polyester, linen or mix of both.

I don’t have a view of previous collections, however looking at these dresses is like watching a repeat of a movie for the third or forth time, it’s getting a little stale. Sure there’s an interesting print like this Vintage Indigo dress.

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The print on this Citrine Chevron dress is alright enough.
Citrine Chevron

But this aquamarine dress makes the lady looks like she’s wearing a cushion cover.
Aquamarine

I’m afraid the Electric Forest is reminiscent of the “auntie” print.
Electric Forest

The dresses are not very expensive, with most costing US$138. There are a couple of cheap ones like this crimson dual tone polyester dress, at US$68.
Crimson Dual

I have to admit I’m not very impressed with the designs at L&P though I understand they’re quite popular with the Japanese ladies. Maybe they have different tastes over there, but I just feel that they’re nothing to shout about. I hope the next collection will be more interesting.

Some readers may be wondering if I get free dresses from all the online boutiques I feature; so far only OBP has offered and given me two dresses. For the record, I didn’t ask for anything from these boutiques, because the fact that I’m allowed to use their images is already a wonderful opportunity for me to showcase the modern cheongsams that are available out there. A big reason is because I suck at photography, there I admit it. I’m sure many have seen my earlier posts on cheongsams and realize that the pictures aren’t exactly good. So I definitely jump at the chance to use professionally-taken pictures. Anyway regardless of whether I receive anything from anyone, as I’ve informed the ladies at OBP, I will be as forthright as ever, and you have to accept whatever I dish out since I’m free to voice my opinions. Sure I’ve featured OBP more regularly but that’s because they always alert me to new designs and keep me updated. Some may think the online boutiques are making used of my blog as a publicity tool, I think it works both ways. My blog also gains from featuring the offerings from these boutiques; besides I actually get a chance to check out modern cheongsams from other countries, which is great for me. Getting free dresses is a nice bonus, but not my intention. Anyway should any reader knows of other cheongsam websites, please alert me. Thanks in advance!

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4 thoughts on “The modern cheongsam

  1. I actually agree. The L&P ones are quite so-so and for some reason, I find the collar part weird.It’s not as “upright” and in some dresses,are a little lower than expected. Or maybe it’s just me. Nice batik cheongsam though 🙂 Helpful review!

    • Hi KL,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Regarding the collar, it’s actually subjective. The high collar is really a traditional style of the 1930’s, though I can understand your preference because I prefer this look too. But it is to keep up with modern time that the collar has shortened. Not all women look good with high collar, and many feel that it’s constricting. Perhaps L&P deigns a shorter collar for their Japanese clientele. Though I believe even for many Chinese women, they don’t like the high collar too, and so not keen on wearing the cheongsam. So the shorter collar is one way to accommodate the changing preferences and to encourage them to try on the dress.

      Regards Maria

      Sent from my iPhone

      >

  2. Dear Maria,

    Thank you for the review! We’re working on all the points you made and yes, we never offered anything for this review but we are truly grateful for the feature and the honest review. You’re really becoming an worldwide authority on cheongsams, we’re getting hits from everywhere. Even Montreal, Canada!

    FYI We will be back in Singapore early December and will be meeting our local customers for the first time at our very first pop-up store (details to be confirmed). It’d be lovely to meet you in person! Looking forward to sharing new designs (perhaps one or two of which will convince you into bringing them home with you 🙂 )

    Take care and once again, sincerely thankful for the input, we’re trying to reach a wide global audience, not only Japan or Singapore so any advice from a true cheongsam fan is always taken seriously so that we do justice to such a classic piece with our modern interpretations.

    With Gratitude,
    The Team at Lark & Peony

    Dear K.L ,

    Noted on the collars too! Thank you 🙂

    • Dear Lark & Peony team,

      I’ve to admit even I’m surprised by the reach of my audience. In fact I’m still a little puzzled by how people found my posts on cheongsams since there’re a gazillion of other websites out there. I wouldn’t call myself a worldwide authority on the cheongsam, just giving out my two cents worth.

      Anyway let me know when and where your pop-up store would be, and hopefully I can drop by. The thing is, having a very young child means my schedule is not flexible. But it would be great to meet up.

      On the collar, I’ve replied to KL that the shortened length is one of the evolution changes of the modern cheongsam. So I can understand your design in this aspect. Though you can consider designing a few pieces with higher collar. Anyway I look forward to checking out your next collection.

      Regards Maria

      Sent from my iPhone

      >

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