Classic Chinese dress on the catwalk

Nearly 30 cheongsams worn by Madame Soong Ching Ling and her relatives were displayed at 600 Shaanxi Road N. to mark her 125th birthday.

For their tribute to Cultural and Natural Heritage Day, students from the Shanghai YF Vocational and Polytechnical School took to the catwalk.

They wore exquisitely-embroidered cheongsam made by skilled craftsmen, along with self-designed pieces that mix the traditional with modern style elements.

“I didn’t know much about cheongsam before learning how to make the dress,” said Wang Qingyi, one of the student models. “The dress I am wearing today is the one that I love most. It’s a traditional cheongsam on top and a modern fishtail dress on the bottom. It really made me fell different when I put it on.”

Wang is one of the students who took part in a tutoring project involving Longfeng, an 82-year-old cheongsam maker based in Jing’an. The school invited master tailors from Longfeng to give lessons in traditional cheongsam-making.

“We hope to provide a channel for today’s young people to appreciate the cheongsam,” said the school’s teacher Tao Jiaojiao. “We also hope some of the students will one day work here so we can keep alive this lovely tradition.”

In March this year, the school opened a cheongsam exhibition hall at the school, displaying masterpieces and students’ works.

The cheongsam was redefined in Shanghai in the early 1900s, when it changed from a loose-fitting, straight-line gown to a body-hugging, one-piece dress. It was highly praised by Madame Soong Ching Ling as a symbol of the women’s liberation movement.

This month, nearly 30 cheongsams worn by Soong and her relatives were displayed at 600 Shaanxi Road N. to mark her 125th birthday.

“I have collected nearly 400 cheongsams over the last decade from places like the US, Canada, Japan and Hong Kong,” said exhibition organizer Jeanette Zee, 78. “This time, I selected 29 cheongsams from my collections, and 23 of them were worn by the three Soong sisters and their relatives dozens of years ago.”

Zee is a distant relative of the Soong family. Her great-grandfather Yan Xinhou was a business leader in Old Shanghai, and an uncle by marriage was a Soong cousin.

Her two favorite pieces in the exhibition were worn by Chang Lo-yi, the wife of T. V. Soong, brother of Soong Ching Ling.

“Chang loved wearing cheongsams, and she insisted on wearing them to public events,” Zee said. “The two pieces on display feature fine pearl embroidery.”

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