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Local desginers put contemporary spin on iconic dress


02-15-2017 08:35 BJT

Shanghai is the home of the qipao, an icon of Chinese fashion. These dresses have changed over the years amid shifts in fashion trends. And now, technology is playing a bigger role.

The Spring Festival gala on Chinese New Year's Eve shined a spotlight on the qipao, a dress made famous in Shanghai. Three celebrities and 55 performers wore a qipao during the Spring Festival gala broadcast and designer Zuo Liyun says the elegant, yet sexy dresses had to be made quickly for the show.

"The gala selected a theme for performer's qipaos, which was peony and pheonix. For example, the blue and white qipao that we made for opera singer Mao Shanyu was embroidered with peony flowers surrounding a phoenix, which stands for luck and wealth in Chinese tradition. We only had 10 days to finish all the dresses, so we called all our teams to work together. Although the time was limited, we didn't skip any steps," Zuo said.

The body-hugging qipao is one of China's classic fashions that has stood the test of time and is still worn today. Most are made of silk, and embroidered, with thick lace trim at the collar, sleeves and edges. But designers are always making small changes to fit the times.

"We have two design teams: a high-end couture team that still keeps the traditional design of the qipao, and wearable fashion team that designs qipaos with trendy elements to attract young people. We use different fabric, bright colors and decoration on qipaos to make them more wearable in daily life," Zuo said.

Unlike the past, when tailors used a ruler to measure a customer's body, the store now is using a 3D measurement machine that can get all the figures in 5 seconds. You just need to enter this room, hold the handles, and the scanner will transfer the figures onto the computer for your customized Qipao.

"After tailors get the figures, it usually takes a month to finish one qipao. And it could take over half a year for customers who ask for a high-end qipao, because it has three more steps in process of making it. Sometimes, embroidery alone would take 6 months," Tailor Feng Yalin at Man Lou Lan said.

A number of qipaos were shown off in Paris last year during China Fashion Week.

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