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Western and Chinese Women in Qipao

穿着旗袍的西方女人和中国女人

Anna Paquin and Liv Tyler

My constant readers already know that I love qipao. This summer I am going to visit my family in China and one of the things on my to-do list is to buy a new qipao.

But don’t think that I’m fixed on the idea of Chinese symbolism of this dress. Actually, while preparing the post for Chinese minority outfits (which will be published later), I was fascinated by the style of Korean national clothes and decided to include into my wardrobe the dress whose style was inspired by Korean motives.

So, here I come to the point of this post. There is no doubt that some dresses, even in their modern interpretations, have clear national character. You see qipao and think Chinese, while kimono is Japanese (so Japanese, that in nationalistic mob it evokes response, similar to instinctive reaction of bull to red color).

The question is whether people can wear and enjoy the national dresses of other ethnic groups? John who previously posted here the article about his qipao mission thinks that qipao is only good for Chinese women. On the other hand, my fellow blogger Jocelyn holds the different opinion.

In fact, there are many Western women (celebrities among them) who like qipao and wear them on different occasions. And just like with any style it can be a hit or a miss.

Look, for example, at the picture above featuring two Western actresses. By definition, qipao is a “body-hugging” dress and for that I see no better illustration than Anna Paquin (on the left) whose black outfit shows off all of her curves in the best light.

But one of the most beautiful actresses Liv Tyler (on the right) and the tailor-made Oscar de la Renta dress don’t seem to be a perfect match. I am definitely not the fashion critic, and this is just my personal opinion – feel free to disagree.

So, is qipao good for Western women? Well, let’s have some fun. Below you will find 8 pictures: 4 Chinese and 4 Western female celebrities wearing qipao and paired into couples. Of course, any comparison is subjective, but I tried to pair between the dresses having similar style.

Chen Hao vs. Kylie Minogue

Chen Hao vs. Kylie Minogue

Gong Li vs. Celine Dion

Gong Li vs. Celine Dion (stop staring at Jennifer, it's Celine in qipao!)

Cecilia Cheung vs. Paris Hilton

Cecilia Cheung vs. Paris Hilton

Liu Yifei vs. Nicole Kidman

Liu Yifei vs. Nicole Kidman

After reviewing the pictures, cast your vote in the poll. Check the boxes in which qipao looks better on the Western celebrity.
For example, if you prefer qipao on Chen Hao, Celine Dion, Paris Hilton and Liu Yifei – then you have to check the second and the third boxes and leave the first and the fourth unchecked.

Note: there is no “draw”!!! If you leave the box unchecked – it means that you gave your vote to Chinese girl :razz:


Qipaoista Crystal Tao

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24 comments to Western and Chinese Women in Qipao
  • Kylie Minogue didn’t look good at all. Celine Dion looked alright but I have a huge crush on Gong Li so I have to give that one to her. Paris Hilton just looks plain terrible and Nicole Kidman doesn’t look bad but she doesn’t look good either. In my opinion. I’ve seen the qipao work on western women before though. Aside from Celine Dion I don’t think they chose the color of their dresses well.

  • Neil

    I chose Paris and Nicole, they are both gorgeous. That’s a tough one though, they all are beautiful in a qipao.

  • Thanks for the link back, Crystal! I chose Nicole, but I’m biased, as I’ve been a huge fan of hers for a long time (and actually featured her photo on the post you linked to… ;-) ).

    I guess I’d still stand behind the ultimate argument that I made in my post — namely that traditional Asian dress has become chic the world over, thanks to Shanghai Tang, Vivienne Tam and other designers. When you see qipao-inspired fashions on the runways, it’s hard to aruge that no one else but Asians could ever wear traditional Asian dress — since the styles have truly gone international.

    I will say, though, that you can make an argument for some colors/styles looking better on certain women than others. But I’ll let the fashion experts hash that one out. ;-)

  • Smitty

    Kylie doesn’t even look good, I can’t stand Celine, and Paris is a skag. That leaves Nicole who looks ok, but the dress seems to be one size too big for her.

    Now if you had the Paquin or Tyler pics in the competition I think I could vote for them.

    Also, voting against Gong Li? Ain’t gonna happen!

    My preference is for the short sleeved qipao, of which you have in three pictures. Cheung, Paquin, and Tyler. Two of them aren’t in the poll. In the end, I almost think this poll is stacked against the western women.

  • Jay K.

    qipao are meant more for women with a slender long body not a wide curvsy body even if it’s meant to hug the lady’s body…if that makes sense.

    if a girl had a longer(taller?) body with more slenderness, in which proportion was more even even mroe to the slim side i think qi pao looks good. but if a girl is petite with lots of curves i sjut dont think it looks good because it’s body hugging.

    right now im watching the australian open. so let me give a better example. let’s say Jelena Jankovic, The William Sisters, Shahar Pe’er (go my female Jew!), and Peng Shuai all wearing the qi pao. the william sisters and shahar pe’er would all look horrible too much curves for a tight hugging dress. where as peng shuai is more proportionate(evenly) and jankovic is taller so the qi pao would match there body more.

    how i define proportionate here is: !) the woman’s breasts are normal size and not big in relation to her body frame, perhaps even just a bit smaller/perkier instead of having watetrmelons 2) the ass is more firm yet round, but not wide and overtly big

  • I think that of course other than Chinese women can wear the qipao too. I think it’s just a big honour to that dress that so many women want to wear it. I’ve used qipao three times, one time at my high school graduation and two times at my cousins’ weddings.

    But I’ve heard that qipao is a traditional outfit of the Manchu people and there is also one traditional and older outfit of the Han people. I read about it in one magazine, but haven’t found any other information. Crystal, do you know anything about this?

  • Meng

    I don’t mean to be rude, but if women can’t wear the traditional garb of other cultures, Chinese women should go and throw out 95% of their wardrobe. Just sayin’…

    Having said that, I have to go for Chen Hao–she looks wonderful, just classy and elegant, while Kylie just doesn’t look right. The drape is wrong and the collar is awful. Chen Hao’s qipao may be slightly too minimal, but I don’t know the context of the event it was worn to, so that’s okay.

    It’s a pretty close call between Gong Li and Celine Dion, but I’m going to give it to Celine here. Gong Li is beautiful as always, but she seems to be trying a bit too hard, while Celine seems pretty comfortable. It’s nice that Gong Li uses the teardrop pendant to draw our attention to her ample cleavage, and tries to balance it with equally huge earrings, and the open collar displaying the green is very nice but it’s just a little too much. I remember this outfit and I remember being just slightly disappointed with it–and her–since I am usually a huge fan, and not as much of a fan of Celine’s. Celine wearing the same qipao looks very nice. Here, I’m trying also to ignore my personal bias, especially as far as body type. Celine is a little too thin for my taste. In a comparison of pretty much any other photos of these two, Gong Li would win hands down. But, when I take a look at how each looks in the qipao respective to their bodytype, Celine wins here.

    I wish you’d picked a different photo of Cecilia, because, again, this is not my favorite of her. I don’t think it shows off her natural beauty, but in fact hides it underneath a stiff tube. She looks a bit nervous, like “when do I get to change out of this thing?” I am really surprised at this photo of Paris, because I usually detest her, but she looks gorgeous here! The hair, the colors, everything comes together very well. Paris, for once, looks the height of posh.

    Although Nicole looks lovely, Liu Yifei wins here by a landslide. Nicole looks cute, and the red actually ends up complimenting her ginger–something quite rare. She looks warmer and more comfortable than the usual ice queen. However, Liu Yifei looks stunning. I really wish we had a more revealing photo, because she’s got her arms crossed over the most important part of the qipao. Regardless, she looks like she was born to wear this qipao. It hangs on her form exquisitely, except for a couple bunches at the top that could be quickly smoothed out for the next photo. The colors are perfect for her, even bringing out her eyes. Although she seems shy in front of the camera, she seems completely comfortable in the qipao, like “oh, this old thing? I just slipped this on when you arrived!” I would have like if she did something better with her famous hair, in fact I think this is the only time I haven’t seen it down. She looks sophisticated way beyond her years.

  • Teacher in China

    Sorry, no contest. The Chinese look better each time. Maybe you just chose better pics for the Chinese, or maybe it’s my personal bias against practically each one of the Westerners you picked – I have never found any of them attractive in the slightest. I have to say though that I thought it looked good on Liv Tyler!

  • Bored in Melbourne

    I cannot vote to support any of the Western women in the pics, in every case I preferred the Chinese lady. I suppose that a small percentage of western women could carry off a qipao but not many.

    This reminds me that I forgot to tell my girl when I dropped her to the airport for a 2 month visit home this week, that any qipao that she has made back in China I am happy to pay for. It’s like buying lingerie for her, sort of a gift to myself.

    Crystal you should do a post on why Chinese women wear such rubbish underwear, this is an area where most western women are far ahead.

    • I am afraid that I can’t objectively elaborate on the topic of Chinese girls’ underwear :oops:
      But it would be great if you can write a guest post on this topic for LLC.

    • Meng

      Yeah, I have to agree with Bored here–the choices for lingerie in China are awful. And it’s not because of different body types because there are all sorts of lingerie styles that are just right for a Chinese girl’s typically willowy frame. It’s not their fault, though, because, even in Shanghai, the Victoria’s Secret shop is a joke. They only have like 1 or 2 items from each of the special lines and nothing at all from Sexy Little Things, my personal favorite. Every time I go back to the US, I make a special shopping trip just for lingerie for my girlfriend. Now she won’t wear anything else. Oh, and, Chinese girls, just a tip–I know you like red, but red underwear doesn’t make you look sophisticated, it makes you look older. Black or another color to go with your skin. Please.

      • Jay K.

        Meng has a pointy say no to red underwear…and no white we dont want to be seeing skid marks of any sort. black panties on females always a good thing. black panties on ladies is a timeless classic, it’s jsut natural like ray ban aviator glasses on macarthur’s face

        and another thing crystal a topic u should do in the future although this one will be more vague “body hair” on chinese women, u can make this a big topic, it really doesnt matter; as a guy i was inferring more to the honey hole area aka “蜜穴” i dont mind natural, but seriously some chinese women make black guys afro’s look trim and cut…i know because i used to style the Jew Fro back in college.
        and the Jew Fro I had rocked…I looked like Disco Stu from the Simpsons, including the douche bag character that he is

        seriously chinese girls need to trim the landing strip. u can have too much overgrowth.. i didnt say go fully brazilian and just have it like a smooth runway, a little hair is nice even a mohawk (1980s porn…aaaaawwwww ya!)

        anyways im going to be finishing this off because i want to down this bottle of bai jiu since the pain killers i was given for my broken ankle isnt fully doing the job.

        • keius

          The landing strip thing….
          My wife says that being hairy down there is whats more popular from a native Chinese guys perspective. Go figure…
          She’d never trimmed until i asked her to. She prefers trimmed down nowadays….says it feels more comfy.
          fyi, she’s 25 years old and immigrated a couple years ago so her perspective is still fairly recent to the current generation. None of the girls
          she had known in school had shaved either. Asian thing maybe? I’ve been told that Japanese prefer untrimmed as well….go figure.

          And red can work. Depends on the style, skin tone, and whatever else she’s wearing with it….

  • sarin

    They all look great. I think it is such an honor that other women wear Chinese traditional dress.My daughter wore Qipao to her father’s graduation of the Chineses classes to honor the culture as well, and we all aren’t Chinese. As who wears better, I think it depends on the figures of the ladies, and it has nothing to do with the national at all.

  • Jay K.

    do a topic on body hair, int he previous comment i was jsut being more sexually vivid. but generically speaking of body hair would be an itneresting topic. why not bring it up with your chinese girlfriends crystal like arm pit hair hair on the legs, arms, etc etc

  • scarlet

    No fair, the two Australian entrants are going against the two mainland Chinese entrants in a qipao competition, the most intrinsically Chinese dominated competition since ping pong. Canada is up against Singapore and America is against Hong Kong, great way to survive the first round for the North Americans.

    Also, Kylie Minogue is 11 years older than Chen Hao, Nicole Kidman is 20 years older than Liu Yifei. Whereas Gong Li is 3 years older than Celine Dion and Cecilia Cheung is a year older than Paris Hilton. I do not want to imply that age is inverse to beauty in women, but Kidman is old enough to be Liu’s mother.

    I would like to point out that in 2008, Australia managed to win the only gold medal in diving not won by the PRC making Australia top country at occasionally beating China at things they are best at.

    OK, I acknowledge that this was probably just a coincidence, I just wanted to act patriotic, given being an exptriate for a year and a half has made me feel somewhat less so.

    Another probable coincidence that Cheung and Hilton are against each other. Given their relationships with Edison Chen and Rick Salomon respectively both ended with similar souvenirs. Cecilia Cheung is the only one of the four I could possibly bring myself to choose Paris over, I still didn’t though.

    Wow, I know far too much about this tabloid rubbish, would feel less embarrassed if someone corrected me and told me that I mixed everyone up.

  • I have to say Celine Dion really pulled it off very well I think she looks the best out of all the western women and Nicole Kidman looks very nice as well. I’d love to try get a pink one for myself

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