The jolly and pretty cheongsam

A few days ago, I received a message from this lady, Ann, who has just set up an online cheongsam store with her sister. They launched their first collection on Wednesday past, 25 June, and asked if I could review the designs. I am happy to do that since I am always interested to see what is new out there.

Ann explained that both she and her sister got the idea to start the store when they had difficulty finding pretty cotton cheongsams for themselves and Ann’s 2.5 years old daughter for Chinese New Year.The online boutique is called Joli Pretty, and for their first collection there are eight dresses available (for grown ups only). I guess they will design for little girls when their dresses gain popularity.

To be honest, my impression of the designs is “seen that, nothing new”, though the fabrics seem to be of higher quality (judging from the pictures). The description states premium cotton fabric, and Ann told me they sourced the materials from various countries, and vetted several seamstresses during the past year to find those skillful enough to meet their requirements. (I guess they can exchange notes with the founders of other online boutiques.)

Of the cheongsams available, most are sleeveless dresses with pleated bottom. Like this below, which has a netting petticoat (called ‘can-can insert’ in the description), the only unique feature as far as I can see. I presume that is to give the skirt a full look, and it is the only dress with the petticoat in this collection.

There are two dresses with the straight cut design. The one below looks like the traditional form but not; there is a seam along the waist, unlike the traditional dress which has long panels down the front and back. Because of this, the fabric will not drape as well on the bodice, but you get side pockets in the dress.
By the way, I don’t like the pink hibiscus print, which I find pedestrian.

This other straight cut dress has a more interesting print.
JP - blue sun

Then there are the common pleated bottom cheongsams, where there is the same print for the entire dress.

And there are those with print on the top and block color for skirt. This comes with a bow at the right waist. What I don’t understand is why are some of this design come with side pockets but not others.

The only short sleeved cheongsam in the mix. It seems popular because there is limited quantity left. Personally I find the design uninspiring.

I also feel that the collar of these dresses is on the short side. I would prefer it to be at least half an inch higher.

So there you have it, a modest first collection which is, unfortunately, not very exciting. I hope to see interesting designs and higher collar in the next one, or at least some designs with higher collar.

On a separate note, if you are wondering what constitutes a high collar, well, using my cheongsams as a gauge, I have a tailor-made dress with really high collar at 7cm. But I understand that may be too much, so there are others like the Blum cheongsams with relatively high, but not uncomfortable, collar length of 5cm. The OBP batik dress has collar of 4.5cm which is fine as well. So the sweet spot for collar (for me at least) is either 4.5cm or 5cm high.


10 thoughts on “The jolly and pretty cheongsam

  1. Dear Maria,

    Our heartfelt thank you for your post. We will take all your comments into consideration for our future collection. Oh our collar is 4cm height fyi, our thoughts were that it may fit Singapore weather especially this season. We will have higher collar for our coming CNY collection. The reason for us not to add pockets for some designs is because it’s quite bulky & not nice if there’re many pleats, we’ve tried to test and decided to take it out.

    Once again, thank you very much for your review and wish you all the best.

    with love,

    Ann from Jolipretty

    • Hi Ann,

      Thanks for your explanation

      Out of curiousity, does the dress “Happy Fall” have more pleats than “Rose and Petal”? Personally I like having side pockets because they are useful. Though for the straight cut design, I will sacrifice that for the form so that the dress drapes well.


      • Dear Maria.

        Happy fall has 3 pleats whilst Roses & Petals has 5 pleats. We love the pockets too, they are really very useful :).

  2. Hi Marie,

    great to see you reviewing more locally designed and made cheongsams.

    For me, my favoruite part of the dress is its distinctive high and smug collar, which brings out the elegance and beauty of the wearer (dont ask me how, I just feel it does. :P)

    However, on the defence of most of the designers here, the bulk of their designs are targeted at the busy working woman, with Singapore’s hot and humid climate in mind. Its already uncomfortable enough to walk the 10mins required from one’s work place to the nearby lunch location in this sweltering heat, adding in a high fitting collar would just almost be the equivalent of wearing a scarf at noon time in Singapore. I work in an air conditioned, office environment and am dressed in a shirt and tie everyday. Some of my shirts have high collars (with 2 buttons even) and when it gets hot, or maybe at the end of the day when i kick back and relax, I can loosen the tie and unbutton the collar. Women in qipaos, unfortunately, dont have the luxury of doing that (not only its unsightly, but most designs dont really have buttoned collars anymroe, mostly zippers down the back, running up to the back of the neck.)

    Having said all that, it would be nice to see local designers embracing more of the traditional aspects of the cheongsam, first and foremost, the mandarin collar. Its all good that most of the modern designs have the Singapore working woman in mind, but they can also launch a few designs that allow the wearer to step back in time (and maybe feel like Maggie Chung). True, those pieces would be more restricting on a daily-wear basis, but they’ll definitely increase their range of appeal to a wider and larger of women (i,e. Marie)

    And Marie, have you posted a pic of that cheongsam you mentioned in this blog before? (the custom made one with high collar). Would love to see it.

    • Hi Vincent,

      Thanks for your comment. By the way I am Maria.

      Regarding the high collar, yes it shouldn’t too high to make the wearer feels uncomfortable. But I think a length of 4.5cm, which is what OBP offers for their flared bottom cheongsams, should be alright and comfortable enough. Blum cheongsams generally have a length of 5cm which I find comfortable. I have never had an issue with collar length, maybe because my neck doesn’t sweat.

      Anyway regarding the ultra high collar cheongsam, I featured it in my very first post “I love Cheongsam”. It’s the orange dress tailor made ar Hana.


    • Hi Maria and Vincent

      For the benefit of other readers, here’s the link of the high-collared cheongsams:

      All I can say is that individually the photos are all so beautiful and breath-taking. I stopped at each photo and marveled at it for a bit… 🙂

      Unfortunately we won’t be able to produce such high-collared beauties as our cheongsams are targeted at ladies who want them for everyday wear, for no special event/occasion! 😉 I also checked out Kang’s Boutique website that was mentioned and went “oh wow, oh wow, oh wow”… You get the idea. 🙂


      • Hi Melanie, thanks for bringing up Kang ‘ s boutique. I checked out the website, and was a little shocked to find out that the starting price for his bespoke service is now S $1,500!! That is a 3 – fold increase from the time I went to him to make my wedding cheongsam and an everyday wear cheongsam. But that was like more than 14 years ago though. The inflation rate is unbelievable. But I have to admit he has amazing tailoring skill, and his fabrics are gorgeous. I guess, in comparison, Hana tailoring at S $800 is cheap.

  3. Hi Maria,

    apologies on the name typo.

    Agreed on the collar height, we probably have similar taste in terms of cheongsam’s collar heights. In fact, I think the 7cm one on your orange custom tailored cheongsam looks pretty ok, also because you have a long neck suitable for high cheongsam collars. In fact, higher collars look better on you as compared to low ones.

    And anyway, most designs nowadays, for convenience-wise, have a zipper running down the back of the dress and most dont even have a front clasp at the front of the collar. So even a 7cm (or even higher) collar wouldnt be uncomfortable as the front of the collar is slightly lower than the back of it, due to the little arc formed at the front.

    That being said, my favorite types are still those tailored by those old master tailors, the straight A-line cut with high collars with actual frog buttons on them. You’ll probably look good in one of those with 3 buttons on the collar. Those dont come cheap though, my friend had one tailor made online (yes, online) via “Qipao by Jane”, total cost came to about SGD 950 inclusive of shipping.

    • Hi Vincent,

      I must say, for a guy who works in the office, you do know something about the cheongsam.

      Anyway thanks for the info on “Qipao by Jane”. Your friend must have gotten her dress made donkey years ago or when Jane started her bespoke service. Now, the cost for a standard short cheongsam is US$2,200, which is even more expensive than Hana!! I seriously don’t know how Jane justified her pricing, unless you are telling me she uses gold thread. For the standard cheongsam, the customer even has to provide her own measurements if she is not located in London, Shanghai or New York.

      I looked at the descriptions of the fabric and sure, she uses various types of silk for the dress and lining, but so do Hana and Kang’s Boutique. In fact the owners of Hana source their fabrics from Italy, which produces some of the most fabulous materials out there. Kang’s boutique also has gorgeous embroidered fabrics available for customized cheongsam. So to me, Jane’s qipao is basically selling to ‘angmohs’ who are not in the knows about cheongsam master tailors. And this thing about lifetime alteration is no big deal. Seriously, how often do you alter your cheongsam anyway?

      • Hi Maria,

        you have an uncanny way of pinning the pin right on the donkey’s tail. My friend did get it several years back, also, while she wasn’t in Singapore. Shes based in Singapore now, having married a local and relocated here. And also, she is an “angmoh”. Anyways, you’re right about the cost not being justifiable in regards to Qipao by Jane.

        p.s. many top designers of womens’ fashion are men. 😛

        For myself, its probably because I like the look of a woman feeling comfortable and looking confident in a cheongsam, hence i pay more attention to the details in regards to this dress, well, more so than other men working in the office anyways. 😛 And its nice to dwell in the company of like-minded people.

        Looking forward to your next cheongsam blog installment.

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