Early last week, I received a comment from Ming on my post “The Other Cheongsam”. Turns out Ming has very recently set up an online cheongsam store with the help of her mom, and it’s called The Happy Cheongsam. (I must admit the name sounds a little cliché, but she has a reason for it as indicated in the ‘About Us’ section.) Anyway she asked if I could review the designs as she is very new to the cheongsam business. Like other owners of online boutiques, she loves the dress and also a proponent of getting it popularized. So naturally I agreed and checked out the site.
I must say I was pleasantly surprised by some of the designs which are pretty good. However like ‘The Lady General’ online store (turns out both use the same fashion retail platform which apparently has many of these nice functions of zoom and various views), THC uses a dress model to showcase the cheongsams instead of a life model. The problem with that is the dress wouldn’t drape well. In fact a picture of one of the dresses, Blue Angel, gave me the wrong impression that there was differing length for the front and back, when it was actually an optical illusion. I suggested to Ming to get a friend or relative to model for her since she is on a tight budget, and she has taken my advice (to an extend).
Ming offered for me to visit the workshop, and even to send me a dress. Unfortunately the location is not convenient for me though I would love to check it out, and I declined the dress as I didn’t want my judgements to be clouded pre-review in my post. She then counter-offered to meet me at a convenient location to show me the dresses I was interested in. I thought that was very nice of her, and also shows she has confidence in her designs, so naturally I accepted. This gave me the chance to check out the workmanship and fabric of the outfits. The day before we met, Ming updated me that one of the dresses I requested, Tiffany ‘s breakfast, was sold out and she couldn’t bring it along to show me. I was quite disappointed, to be honest, as having looked through this entire first collection, that particular dress was my favorite. In fact I had previously decided that if I liked what I saw, I would get it.
Tiffany’s Breakfast is a play on the movie title “Breakfast at Tiffany”. Looking at the dress, I can imagine Audrey Hepburn’s character in this robin egg-colored outfit entering a Tiffany store, looking amazing! But mostly I like this dress because I thought the bottom tulip design is a pretty good idea for a modern cheongsam. It not just hides the tummy, but also provides an hour-glass silhouette unlike the flare skirt bottom. The Tiffany blue color is rather pretty as well, and complements well the red piping and the faux buttons with whimsical cupcake print. From the pictures, I can see that the fabric is shantung silk, which imbues an elegant feel to the dress.
Ming was wearing one of her designs when she met me (but of course), and if she hadn’t revealed that she was in a corporate job a year ago, I would have thought she was a fashion design student. During my meeting with her, she told me that she and her mom launched 14 dresses for this first collection, and the whole process took 6-7 hectic months. After this exhausting experience, Ming decided that she should not be so ambitious, and agreed with me that a small collection of 3-4 designs would be better for the next one. When I complimented on some of the dresses, Ming credited them to her mother who has 45 years of experience as a seamstress! She made the first couple of dresses, and subsequently they outsourced the fabric cut-outs to an external seamstress. When the project was completed, Ming’s mom remarked she was sick of the designs, and wanted to know when would Ming come out with new ones. That is a quite a stressful order from one’s mother! Anyway as I looked through the dresses, I thought the workmanship is not bad, the seams are well sewn, and all the dresses have lining (insisted by Ming’s mom). In fact the quality seems almost as good as those from the boutique like Xi (where the cheongsams are priced between S$150 for a cotton material to S$400 for silk). All THC dresses also come with side pockets.
One of the dresses shown to me is “Blue Angel”, an A-line design which has both Thai silk and batik for the bodice. In the pictures, the blue silk color looks like a royal blue color, but upon inspection of the cheongsam, it turns out to be midnight blue. This shows nothing beats seeing it for yourself. In fact Ming told me she encourages her customers to check out the dress and try it out before buying.
As I looked through the dresses, I noticed that the Thai silk material has ruchings (or gatherings) along the hidden zip, but not on the pink shantung silk piece. If you look at one of the pictures above which shows the back of the dress, this is what I mean. For the record, I didn’t see this problem on the pink dress but on the blue one. I pointed the difference to Ming who hadn’t noticed until then, and at that time I thought it was due to the characteristic of the Thai silk, that it’s not an easy material to sew. But looking at the above picture and also another one showing the back of Tiffany’s Breakfast dress (see below), I wondered if it was due to the fabric not being straightened properly during the sewing process. Though I would not rule out that material characteristics of the shantung and Thai silk play a part since both are known to have rougher texture.
THC also offers “straight cut” cheongsam designs; which are in reality modern dresses that look like cheongsams. Why I say this is because the typical cheongsam bodice is made from a front and a back panel, but in the case of these THC dresses, both panels are split into top and bottom and so there is a seam at the waist. This allows pleats (or tucks) to be sewn to create fullness. Take a look at this blue print dress “Take A Side”, one of the dresses I asked to look at. It is made of cotton, with blue ikat print in front and plain blue color on the back, and I noticed that it doesn’t have ruchings along the zip.
The same dress in pink “Flawless Rosy” which Ming wore when she met me, except for one difference, which is the whole dress is made with the pink ikat print. Yes, it is not apparent in the picture but the fabric background is a very pale pink.
I thought the design of these “modern-cut” cheongsams is not bad, especially for women with small hips. If you prefer the traditional straight-cut form, THC offers it in the dress which goes by the whimsical name of “Specky”. Initially I didn’t know what to make of the print but then it slowly grows on me and I have to say I thought the dress is rather cute.
I quite like this intersting combination of small floral print with a block color in the dress “Green Vinty”. It has a touch of retro but also exudes a modern vibe, and I must say the belt worn by the model (shown in the website) goes well with it too. The description says ‘Á-line’ but it looks straight-cut to me from the various angles.
Not all THC cheongsams are of good designs, the one below (which is the first dress you see in the website) “Sail Away” looks a little weird to me. I just don’t like the shape of the bottom blue panel. In fact Ming admitted that a couple of her friends also thought it looks strange, with one alluding it to a certain female sexual organ. I wouldn’t go to that extent, but somehow it reminds me of the old Chinese lingerie.
This dress, Yellow Pop, has the same design as Tiffany’s Breakfast, but the print puts me off. For one thing it reminds me of the cushion cover in grandma’s home, and for another, I don’t like the mustard yellow color. The whole dress doesn’t have the elegant feel of the blue Tiffany.
The below dress “Bambino” is a design which I suspect Ming got inspiration from Tong Tong dresses. She admitted to me she is a big fan of Tong Tong founder, and thought her designs are pretty interesting. She showed me some of the current CNY collection, which, frankly, I wouldn’t go for them. Regarding this particular dress, all I can say is the name “Bambino” provides a clue that whoever wears this has to be pretty young to carry it off. Otherwise you just look strange.
I mentioned earlier that Ming took my advice and got a friend to model the dresses for her, but only one picture for each dress was shown with this life model. I hope that for the next collection, we get to see the model showing different angles of the dress, which is essential to see how it looks on the physique. Notwithstanding some misses, I thought the first collection is a pretty interesting set of dresses where Ming showed some adventurous designs, and different styles too. This is rather impressive effort for a first-timer, and of course her mom is amazing as well. I look forward to the second collection, which I think would be a smaller one, but at least focused on getting good designs out.