Monday, March 23, 2015

CHEONGSAM: Who Wears Them Anymore?

Cheongsam is the national dress for the Chinese but as globalization make its way in the 21st century, we don't see that many people wearing the Cheongsam anymore, especially in countries that are a considered a "global hub".

Before the 1920s, the revolutionary Cheongsam (tight, body hugging Cheongsam) were worn by people of high status like celebrities and courtesans.

This is what celebrities of that time wore. The Cheongsam has evolved into a more tight fitting style which accentuates the figure and the long sleeves have been change to the shorter sleeve. It was considered formal wear at that time and only people of the upper class have such a cheongsam.

During my grandparents ear, which was the 1930s, the Cheongsam involved into a fashion statement for the rich and not as a necessary clothing piece. My grandmother did not even have a cheongsam to call her own and she considered the cheongsam as a luxury item.

Moving to the 21st century. Not many people, especially here in Singapore, are seen wearing the traditional dress of the Chinese culture on festivals and celebration. Even those who wore the cheongsam are not necessarily wearing the "original cheongsam". 

Cheongsam that are sold today
As we can see, the cheongsam being sold today are getting even tighter and shorter. My friend bought one of these from an online shop and the material was not silk, unlike the traditional cheongsam. Some areas of the cheongsam was sheer and see-through, which was not likely an element present in 1920s or earlier. The design of such cheongsam are becoming more and more like the ideal of the west, "if you got it, flaunt it" kind of style. People now wear these cheongsam only during Chinese New Year and occasionally during weddings. It was not a daily outfit unlike those upper class women who wore them everyday as part of a necessary clothing. The cheongsam of today deviates too far from the original. 

On festivals such as Chinese New Year, more and more people are seen wearing a more "westernized outfit ranging in colors, instead of just the color red. Girls wear basic dresses, rompers, or even jeans during Chinese New Year, they wore whatever they want as long as its appropriate for the festive. Most people are spotted without a cheongsam and even those that wore it are commercialized cheongsam (which deviated too far from the original).

Basic Black Dress for Chinese New Year

The romper as an alternative to cheongsam

In conclusion, I can say that in the past, in many people wear the cheongsam as it was considered a luxury item and not many can afford. Now, because of how globalized the fashion world is, many people turn to the westernized ideal of beauty and the cheongsam is no longer part of the "globalized" fashion.

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