China through the looking glass
China through the looking glass is an exhibition on the galleries 206-280 on the Egyptian galleries and the Anna Wintour Costume Center. The China through the looking glass sculpture is dated on its exhibition as of May 7 to August 15 in 2015; China has heard undeniable influence on fashion in the West and most importantly Chinese aesthetics, which is a major aspect that this exhibition explores.
The looking glass fashion is a unique development in the Chinese development of costumes and fashion industry, images of culture and costumes of these Chinese are best displayed and marketed through this fashion design. This was the age when long skirts, frills, and lace designs were completely replaced with this kind of silhouette, diaphanous fabrics, and short skirts. These new diaphanous fabrics were a fashion of the time because of its unique decoration on the outside with many beads. This kind of shift in fashion dressing of short revealing clothes and fabrics blended well with long coats which were quickly integrated in to the dressing system first with the stylists and designers who marketed it at first. The evening coat was an idea developed basing on Chinese culture though with much influence by the Western world. This was an interesting artwork in the exhibition because of the material used and the effect it had on fashion in China.
The Red silk Cheongsam
The Cheongsam (also called the Qipao) is simply a one-piece dress with a high neck and a straight and fitting skirt that covers the whole all the way down to the toes leaving out only the head, hands and the toes. I was attracted to the red Qipao because it is a striking color and gives the impression of sharpness at its best. This type of color does not fit a normal working day or fit for a person on routine. It is clearly meant for classic occasions such as weddings or high-profile meetings. This dress is magnificent especially by the fitting design that is not necessarily hugging. Instead, it comfortably fits round the female figure.
The Cheongsam generally gives the impression of elegance partly because it is decent and also because it is an ancient dress consequently giving the wearer the feeling of belonging and identification. The simplicity of the dress is mostly what defines its beauty and charm. I view it as a complex piece of artwork because it hides all the body leaving no exposed areas yet enhances the ‘woman’ figure in the dress. This comfortable feeling it brings is what impresses and inspires me to identify with the Cheongsam.
The top part measures 16” from the collar to the waist and goes a further 42” to the hem down at the toes giving one a comfortable feeling with their bodies. It slightly widens at the hip to accommodate an average female figure allowing for wider measurement. The stand-up collars rise upright and are meant to cover most of the neck. The shoulders have shoulder pad to enhance the sharp figure at the shoulders. Seams run from the beneath the sleeves all the way down opening 12” from the toes to create double slits. The slits allow room for the legs to move to a comfortable extent allowing ease in movement and walking. The dress is generally light as there are no pockets or linings attached to the main fabric. Instead, the dress freely runs down to the toes to enhance the feminine look of one’s body. The buttons at the front are used to adjust the size of the maxi and the extent to which one is confined. For instance, when one needs to be involved in vigorous motions and activities, they can open a few buttons to create room to movement.
I discovered a catalog from exhibitions at the Museum where the original purely silk Qipao entirely hand-stitched. This impressed me and I got interested in finding out more about the Chinese Cheongsam. The pattern is cut precisely and does not allow room for error. The hand-stitched garment is almost perfect to look at.
The Qipao (or cheongsam) dress has not only lasted the taste of time, but also will maintain its dominance in fashion since it is easily adjustable as it allows correction and amendments to it. In future, the Qipao may be shorter than it is today or tighter but it all depends on the fashion anticipated. However, I still prefer the oldest design of the dress as it is decent and also identifies one to the ancient history of its origin. The Chinese women are not the only ones who love to dress in these elegant clothes and certainly not the only ones who produce them. The Cheongsam’s fame has spread across the globe as cloth worth for using in coveted occasions like cultural weddings. I personally saw an African-American wearing a Qipao in a traditional black wedding. I realized that the dress had sneaked into another culture based thousands of miles away from the origin of the Manchu women who invented them Cheongsam.