Making qipao: Shanghai's favorite dress

Shen Tianyu
Qipao is a traditional dress which was popular with Chinese women from the 1920s to the 1940s, and Shanghai is the place where it all originated.
Shen Tianyu

Filmed and edited by Zhou Shengjie. Translated by Tan Xinru. Polished by Andy Boreham.

Qipao is a traditional dress which was popular with Chinese women from the 1920s to the 1940s, and Shanghai is the place it all began.

Even today if you ask a Chinese person which one dress best encapsulates the Chinese spirit, the qipao would most likely be the first to come to mind. 

Longfeng is one of the most famous shops making the dress, and they have been doing so for more than 80 years. 

According to Jiao Yigang, a tailor at Longfeng, most clients before were performers from pingtan troupes and returned overseas Chinese. Nowadays, with a much more open environment, more and more different types of people are coming for qipao, especially newlyweds. 

The masters at Longfeng still make qipao by hand, using traditional skills such as edging, inlaying and “pankou” (buttons made of thread and copper wire). 

But now the craft needs to be passed on, so Longfeng is cooperating with a local vocational school and teaching students who are interested for half a day each week.

If successful, Longfeng will help promote a home-grown treasure and carry it forward to future generations, and to the world.


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