The different styles of cheongsams

A few weeks ago, a reader sent me a CNN link of the recommended cheongsam boutiques in Shanghai. Though her intention was not to introduce the boutiques but to alert me to one which claimed to have made the dresses wore by Maggie Cheung in ‘The Mood For Love’ (and it wasn’t Linva of Hong Kong). The boutique in question is Han Yi (瀚艺).

Anyway, after a little research, I think it was very likely the costume designer for the movie approached more than one tailor to make the cheongsams. But what piqued my curiosity is the list, because I want to know why are these the best, and how they distinguish themselves from the rest, especially compared to those in Singapore.

However the article didn’t even provide representative pictures of the cheongsams from each of the shops, and even the descriptions of the designs say very little about them. What does it mean by colorful, unconventional, decadent fabrics? The pictures featured don’t seem to have any relations to the ones offered by the boutiques.  The only boutique I’m familiar with is Shanghai Tang, and I had checked out Qipao by Jane some time ago (and strangely the website has been taken down). I tried to search online for them, but pictures were few and far between. Notably absent is also mention of the workmanship and service.

Now you might be wondering since these are said to be the best in Shanghai, the workmanship would be assumed to be good? Yes, especially since they offer customized cheongsams. So I am curious as to whether they accommodate women with odd physique and the ability to downplay the flaws. I have not seen it for myself, but Eddie of Lai Chan boutique assured me that they do not turn away customers who do not have the typical body shape. He recalled a lady who had really flat bums and Lai Chan designed padding on the dress for her. I have also seen for myself how Gary Lau of Kang’s boutique can make a cheongsam (for a friend) which accentuates the curves and camouflages the flaws.

Anyway, this got me thinking that I should write a post on how the cheongsam designers in Singapore differentiate from one another. Now, this is not a comprehensive list but is based on my knowledge of the designers and the dresses.

Hana

Hana’s designs tend to be a little opulent, even loud or flashy, and looks like something a middle aged or older socialite would go for. The dresses are in the usual classic fit since I suspect that is what its clientele feel that this is what cheongsam is supposed to be.

Laichan

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What else but its distinctive semi-precious stone buttons running from the collar down to the hip? Sure, occasionally there are deviations such as the modern qipaos with backzips, but the row of buttons is uniquely Laichan. It’s no surprise I have a soft spot for the cheongsams because of the beautiful prints and fabrics (sometimes with a dash of whimsy), the amazing workmanship and attention to details, and the good customer service. Despite the classic look featured here, Laichan is capable of ultra modern cheongsam designs.

Peter Kor (Studio 55)

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Peter’s dresses are geared towards the working ladies, with hidden back zips for easy wear, stylish designs and good workmanship for a professional look. Yet they retain the soul of the cheongsam. There are other designers who make cheongsams for the working women, but Peter’s dresses stand out for the rich and quality fabrics and prints, which are mostly sourced from France and Japan. However, I have to add that the onsite alternation is not up to my expectations because the dress wouldn’t fit nicely even after the work, and I had to send it to my regular seamstress to get it fixed. This is a pity since many times the alteration also affected the original excellent workmanship.

Clothier

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Clothier’s qipaos are typically in oriental floral prints with simple fabric button accessories in traditional design. They have reasonably good workmanship and prices are not crazy expensive. Despite the classic look, the dresses have hidden back zip for wearability.

Mama & Misse

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M&M incorporates local cultural elements into its cheongsams, like the use of sari and batik fabrics. The cheongsams are usually in classic design as well, and have a mix of those with back zip or side zip. M&M offers both formal and casual cheongsams to customers, in either silk or cotton fabrics. The prices are similar to those from Peter Kor, but fabrics are not as luxurious.

Lark & Peony

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L&P cheongsam designs are semi-casual and modern. The collars are shorter than usual, there is the shift cut, and even culottes. Fabrics are mostly cotton to accommodate the humid weather here, and the prints have a touch of ethnic or Japanese aesthetics. The traditionalists might not endorse the designs but the brand has its fans.

Jolli Pretty

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JP’s collections have a mix of casual and work wear. The fabrics do not have the interesting prints of L&P, and instead there is an ordinary feel about them. But for those who want affordable cheongsam work wear, below S$200, JP would be the place to get them.

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Cheongsam updates 

Some latest news on the cheongsam. 

Peter Kor’s Studio 55 boutique is having a mid year sale for the entire month of June. The cheongsams from past collections are on sale at major discount, from at least 50% off. Some even going for 70% off and others are discounted to as low as S$99.

If you like any of those Chinese New Year dresses I had previously featured in my blog, now is the time to get them at these big discounts. Though, only limited sizes are available. 

For the current W collection, Peter only designed a couple of cheongsams as he focused on work clothes. Here are the two designs I spotted: one modern interpretation, and the other, though in classic cut, has a contemporary print.



While I was at the boutique, Peter revealed that he has started work on the collection for next year’s CNY, which took me by surprise as it seems pretty early to me. He has started late for this year’s designs, and as a result, he was unhappy with some of the shoddy workmanship due to the rush job. So he is starting early this time to make sure the dresses would be up to his expectations. And I was very lucky and pleased when he showed me some of the completed samples. I have to say they are gorgeous! I couldn’t take any pictures of course, but I can assure you the prints and fabrics (from France) are simply amazing. Already, I’m thinking that I would burn a hole in my pocket when the collection is launched. 

Over the past week or so, two brands have launched new dresses again: Joli Pretty and Sissae. For JP, this is the second part of the Spring/Summer 2017 collection.

There is a mixture of jumpsuits, dresses and tops.




Jumpsuit style seems to be trending, because Sissae is also offering it as part of it latest “Virtuous” collection. The designs are in the typical Sissae formal style, but are also ultra modern in looks. Despite having misgivings about the workmanship, I have to admit the designs are pretty striking and remind me of those from the  French couture fashion houses.



That’s it for now, folks! I’ll continue to sniff out other collections and will update then.

The new cheongsams from Lai Chan (updated)

(Note: added the A-line cheongsam that I missed out earlier.)

I was at Raffles City mall a couple of days ago and decided to pay a visit to Laichan boutique. I was happy to spot some new designs, like this light grey modern cheongsam with a knot at the center waist. A classy dress that looks absolutely presentable for work and important meetings. A great modern interpretation of the traditional.


Of course Lai Chan’s classic cheongsams are the staple, and we have a number of new prints available. You can expect a burst of floral blooms in this collection. For those who like to have a little flair to their dresses, here’s one with a splash of flowers.

I love the bright poppy flower print of this dress below, which pairs beautifully with the contrasting blue stone buttons. I’m a sucker for vibrant colors!

If you prefer something a little more feminine and subtle, here is an option. The print reminds me of an English garden. 

Another dress that caught my eyes! Yes, I was taken in by the combination of the azure blue flowers and the aquamarine leaves. That blue color is gorgeous! 

For something a little different, this is a retro floral print which is pretty in its own right.


If you are looking for a more earthy tone, you can opt for this elegant purple cheongsam that looks amazing in any formal setting.


Laichan also launched a loose fit cheongsam for women who wants a more casual look. I really like the modern floral print of this sporty dress.

Late last year, Lai Chan added the A-line cheongsam to his collection, and it has been a hit since because of the presence of pockets. We women love the convenience of pockets don’t we? (At leash for Singaporean women.) This time, Laichan used the retro geometric print for the dress, which gives it a rather youthful look. 


There is a wide selection of cheongsam tops available as well, though I am only showcasing a few here. Down here, we have one  with small floral print, and the other in block color complemented with floral appliqués.

I spotted this interesting modern top with a pretty floral print on the front and a purple back panel. Instead of the usual side buttons, there is a hidden zip at the back. However, I’m not sure if there’s a problem with the purple fabric or that this is a difficult material to handle because there is puckering along the zipper. And I only realized, upon looking closely at the picture, that even the bottom seam looks jagged.  If this is what happened when a zip is used instead of buttons, then I rather go for the latter. Perhaps I am being picky, but  I find puckering unsightly.


All in all, I would still say the collection is rather eye-catching, and many of the classic cheongsams are drool-worthy. 

The new cheongsam launches 

Things have been pretty slow with the cheongsam collections. There have not been a lot of launches from the online stores over the past couple of months. So far, there was Lark & Peony which launched a few cheongsam tops earlier in April. Finally, yesterday,  Joli Pretty launched a full collection consisting of dresses, jumpsuit and a couple of tops.

Blue seems to be the favorite color for this S/S 17 launch; what with it being so predominantly featured. The dresses and jumpsuits are priced below S$180, and the tops are below S$100. The designs aren’t exactly outstanding but if you are looking for modern and reasonably priced cheongsams, they make presentable work wear.




Another boutique I am featuring here is Sissae, a brand which I haven’t showcased its cheongsams for quite some time. Sissae is known for its chic looking dresses, and it has started to offer simpler designs in linen or cotton fabrics. Overall, the prints and embroideries make the cheongsams look rather elegant and classy; but I find the workmanship doesn’t match up to it. 







Finally, we have Shanghai Tang, which has focused on the classic straight-cut cheongsams for the S/S 17 collection.  I had featured most of them previously, and here are a few of the newer designs. 

Other than the Dragon scale print dress shown in the lowest picture, the other two will set you back a tidy sum of S$2997 and S$3755 for the one on top and in the middle respectively.  The brand justified the price tags by labelling them as limited edition. But they are still not  one of a kind; and there would be at least a few women having the same dress. If I’m going to pay this amount for a dress, it has better be unique. 


Cheongsam update at Lai Chan 

I know I haven’t been putting up new posts regularly in my blog for the past couple of months, and it’s because work has been really busy. I have little time to look for materials for the blog, amidst juggling between family and work. Anyway I finally made a trip to Lai Chan a few days ago to check out the new designs. So, let’s take a look at the dresses first.

The cheongsams are mostly in classic Lai Chan style with semi precious stone buttons, though I spotted quite a few retro prints among them, like this white polka dot black dress.


This tweed fabric cheongsam is slightly different from the rest in that it has stud buttons, making it easy to put on. I find the seemingly simple design belies an  understated elegance.

Below we have a Japanese cotton fabric with a retro flair.


Another easy to wear cheongsam with back zip, though there are few classic styles available with such wearability. But I am not into this print; I feel it looks a little matronly.

When I first saw the below dress with abstract print, I didn’t think much of it until I took a closer look. I like how Lai Chan used the polka dot binding to juxtapose against the print, creating an interesting combination. However, I wish the dress has stud buttons instead. Though the stone buttons make the cheongsam looks good, they can be a pain because they really test your patience.


Another cheongsam with retro print here.


One of the few cheongsams that Lai Chan made with pockets. This design was actually launched end last year but in solid colors. This time Lai Chan used what looks like jacquard fabric, which gives it a regal look, but the color is not easy to pull off.

We have a new design here, a modern cheongsam for the formal occasion. This will please those looking for something different from the classic style.


Other than dresses, there are a number of cheongsam tops available. One is an elaborately embellished vest which I find is a little too ornate for me.

I do like the below modern top with the stripy collar and polka dotted front with side zip. Combined with a yellow back panel, this is pretty striking.

Most of the tops are in the classic style with side stone buttons, and some are designed with denim back panels.




If any of these pieces caught your eyes, do check them out at the store at Raffles City mall. Since these are one-off pieces, I cannot say they would still be available though. But it’s nice to browse through the collection, and you might fancy something not featured here.

A cheongsam update 

Over the past few days, I went to Peter Kor’s boutique to check out the sale and to the pop-up store of Laichan.

As mentioned in my previous post, Peter is holding a sale for the previous collections including the CNY cheongsams from 30-70%. Most of the cheongsams are going for 30% off, and there are a number of new designs that I didn’t spot during my visits before CNY. Take a look at them here! The sale will end this Sunday (19 February). So if you are interested in any of them, do make a trip down to the boutique at 222 Queen Street. 

There are quite a few cheongsams with retro prints, such as these below with the ruffled hemline. 


 



Also available are dresses  embellished with lace or intricately-embroidered floral buttons.




Lai Chan’s pop up store opens 2 days ago at Raffles City Mall, on the second level. The exterior wasn’t fully done up when I was there, like the shop name wasn’t put up then. Eddie told me that everything would be completed by next week.

The interior design has a clean line feel about it which makes it looks cool and edgy, though it wasn’t intentional. I was told the shop was previously occupied by Nike, and not much was done to the design since it is temporary. To add to the cool factor, a snake-skin print cheongsam with sequins was on the mannequin. 

I will return when the shop is all done up, ready for pictures.  Hopefully there will be some new designs I can showcase as well.

Cheongsam news snippets 

Some of you might be aware that Laichan‘s boutique at Raffles Hotel has closed because the hotel is undergoing a major refurbishment. But fret not, he has a temporary store at Raffles City mall, #02-29, starting from 16 February till 15 July. He will relocate to a permanent shop at Paragon from 1 August. 

Peter Kor is having a post CNY sale at his boutique at 222 Queen Street, #02-03. If you have been eyeing his collection, you should go check it out since it’s going at 30-70% off. 

If you are still hankering for cheongsams or considering if you should get one, here are more suggestions for you.

Utopia at Parkway Parade

Blum at various locations

The Proposal at Capitol Piazza


 

Tong Tong Friendship Store at Shaw tower

Mandarin Peony at Tang 

Clothier at Tang

Looking good in the Lai Chan cheongsams

There are only 5 days to CNY; not much time left to grab a cheongsam for the celebration. If you’re been following my posts, you will see there are a lot of choices available still. Though if you require alteration service, then tough luck! But it’s ok to get a dress that you can wear after the festivity. 

Some of you may not like the choices offered in the earlier posts, especially if you are looking for something fabulous, that stands out. So, I had made a trip to Lai Chan yesterday to check out what is available (but I cannot guarantee any of them will still be after this post is published.) 

One of things I like about getting a cheongsam at Lai Chan is the after-sale service. The boutique is one of only two I know of which strives to ensure the dress fits the customer nicely. I might have mentioned it before but the boutique once told a customer, who dislikes alternation, that if the dress didn’t fit after it was done, she would get a full refund. That is how much emphasis the boutique places on making the customer looks good. It didn’t matter how many alterations are required, most important is that the dress has to fit. If alteration is not possible, the customer will be asked to have the dress custom made.

There are dresses for those who prefer something bright and cheery, and those who want light colors.




A pleated cheongsam with pockets! A rare desire from Lai Chan. 


How about a loose fit cheongsam for those who want to feel comfortable in it? The collar is also lower than those in the usual dresses. Another good thing about this is that there is a zip instead of multiple buttons which can put off some women.

Enough of dresses? There are cheongsam tops available. Lavender and fuchsia pink stand out!



The dresses go for more than S$750 and the tops are more S$400. But each piece is unique, and workmanship is excellent. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, the important alteration service.

Going for the non-red cheongsams

Many women are not into looking like a red packet during the lunar new year. Some will prefer subtle colors, though bear in mind that it is not easy to carry off pastel/light colors especially on photos. Most times, the person looks washed out in them. So, instead of red, I think blue is a really nice color. If you are adventurous, there is also purple, green, yellow, and of course, an offshoot of red, pink! Even black with splashes of red is acceptable as well. 

There are many options for non-red cheongsams available right now, in various price range. Check out these if you  want to be non-traditional!

Couture by Szan @ Changi Airport T3 (below S$100)

Mazzario @ One Raffles Place (from S$159)

 

Utopia @ Parkway Parade (below S$120)

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Seoul Fashion @ Raffles Xchange (from S$129)

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Nana @ Arcade (below S$200)


Miz Apparels @ One Raffles Place (below S$200)

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Peter Kor @ Studio 55 (from S$250)

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Y by Yann @ Isetan Scott (from S$329)

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Lai Chan @ Raffles Hotel (from S$780)
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Hana @ Arcade (from S$1,000)

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Painting the town red  in the cheongsams

Chinese New Year is all about bold bright colors. And red is always associated with it  because of a folk lore that claims red is an auspicious color that warded off the monster, Nian. So when it comes to the cheongsams, the color abounds. For those who want to make a CNY statement, here are the firecracker red cheongsams you can proudly put on.

Mazzario @ One Raffles Place (from S$159)

Seven @ Raffles Place (below S$200)


Seoul Fashion @ Raffles Xchange (from S$129)

Little Qipao  @ Isetan Scott (below S$180)

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Couture by Szan @ Changi Airport T3 basement (below S$200)

Nana @ Arcade (from S$140)


Peter Kor  @ Studio 55 (from S$250) 

Y by Yann @ Isetan Scott (from S$328)

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Hana @ Arcade (from S$1,000)