When I posted about my other wedding qipao (a red and white silk qipao that I wore to our pre-wedding traditional outdoor banquet), I was actually dying to post about this one. This was my reception dress for the wedding day itself, a mint green and magenta modern wedding qipao (cheongsam in Cantonese) that I had tailor made here in Shanghai, and am deeply in love with.
At the time we were still waiting for our professional photos to come back, so I decided to hold off because I wanted some nice photos to really show the dress. But we got the photos back about a week ago and I am super disappointed. Since we had an afternoon and evening outdoor wedding, the still pictures with beautiful lighting were mostly of the wedding ceremony in the afternoon, and there were very few perfect pictures of the qipao, which I only put on after the sun had set (and unfortunately it started to rain….).
So I selected the few that I had, and shot a few more in the apartment, and am finally putting together this post. I really really love this dress (in case you can’t tell), and had so many people ask about it after the wedding, so hope you enjoy this post!
The search for a modern wedding qipao
We had our wedding in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, where my parents-in-law were born, and where a lot of my husband’s relatives live. The wedding was mostly “Western” (so what you might expect in an American or Australian wedding), but we wanted some “modern Asian” elements. So that’s what I also wanted for my reception dress, since my main wedding dress (or dresses…) was a traditional white gown.
I looked around pretty extensively for a modern wedding qipao. I checked out all the qipao stores in Shanghai’s downtown qipao strip (茂名南路，近淮海路, ／Maoming Road, just south of Huaihai Road); went to see famous Master Chu’s store on the street of Eternal Happiness (217 Changele Road长乐路217号／長樂路217號)), and also looked online. But most of what was on offer were very traditional embroidered red dresses.
I did toy with the idea of sticking with traditions and going red and gold, but I just didn’t feel particularly special in anything that I tried on. In the process of looking at the red dresses though, I did learn a little bit about the difference between machine and hand embroidery. I saw some spectacular hand embroidered pieces, with amazing colour gradation, and a full-bodied texture that machine embroidered pieces just didn’t have.
Unsurprisingly and according to the shops that I spoke to, there are also fewer and fewer craftsmen who are capable of high quality hand embroidery nowadays, making prices higher and wait times longer. But they were so beautiful that I thought if there was one occasion in life I could splurge on something like this, it was this. And luckily, we had enough time!
After a month or so of searching, I finally settled on a little store I discovered by chance, believe it or not, at the bottom of our apartment block. I had been walking past it several times a week for at least a year and when I finally went inside, I discovered that it was a shop that makes bespoke suits for men and qipaos for women. Importantly, it had a good selection of silk colours and its own embroidery craftsmen, all within a fairly reasonable price range.
Mint, magenta and a see-through back
My favourite colour is green and had been green for pretty much as long as I can remember. So when I decided that I didn’t particularly want a red qipao, I knew green was the colour. I also hadn’t given up entirely on red, I wanted something in the red family on the dress to pop on the day. And that’s how I came to the colour story for this modern wedding qipao: a pale mint green base with magenta highlights to brighten it up.
I also pinterested for days for ideas on the style of the dress. Again having seen many traditional red wedding qipaos, I realized that I didn’t want the “old-school” way of having big embroidered flowers or dragons down the front. My final main inspiration came from a Ralph Lauren New York Fall 2011 black qipao, which had a see through black lace back extending all the way to the front of the shoulders, and a large dragon sequinned and embroidered on the back. But a dragon was too severe for me (not to mention it probably wouldn’t work so well in bright pink…), so I also took inspiration from a 1999 Christian Dior dress (by John Galliano, worn by Cate Blanchett to the Oscars that year), with its floral and bird embroidery on a skin-coloured see-through lace back. Did I mention, I’m also kind of obsessed with backless dresses?
When I showed the store my colour story, styling and embroidery ideas, they were amazing at taking it all in. Within a few weeks, I was fitted with a calico prototype of the style, and several potential designs for the back embroidery were shown to me. When I had my first fitting with the real dress itself, in mint green with the embroidery partly finished, I was already in love.
It was just perfect, a beautiful soft mint green imported French silk, with various shades of magenta flower petals that had tiny gold threads in them for the centre. And a bright long-tailed bird that lifted all the colours and added some liveliness. In the close up photos you would also be able to see that the floral pankous (traditional knotted buttons) have been made the “proper” way, rolled up from actual pieces of the silk itself, hand curled and stitched on.
Ok, I’m just going to say one last time – I love this dress, and could not have asked for anything more perfect as a modern wedding qipao. I am also happy to pass on the contact of the store to anyone interested, leave a comment or contact me on any of The Pankou’s social media channels!