WITH Chinese New Year approaching fast, cheongsam is a hot item. While it has always been a staple festivewear among the Chinese, the attire seems to have enjoyed a renewed popularity as more young women are making it a part of their wardrobe for the relevant occasions.
Take Helen Lim, for example. The Year of the Horse will see her wearing cheongsam to usher in the new lunar year for the first time.
The marketing manager said she had never fancied wearing it before.
“As years go by, I see many people wearing it and I feel I should also purchase one to keep the tradition going,” said Lim, who opted for a modern design.
When it comes to choosing the length and colours, she wanted something with sleeves, knee length and blue in colour.
“I do not mind so much the designs with big flowers against a plain bright colour background.
Elaine Chew, 37, said she had purchased two of the traditional outfits earlier for the occasion and they were both modern designs.
“Traditional designs tend to suit the older generation and look better on tall women,” she said, adding that given her height, a modern design that looks similar to a short dress would fit her much better.
Chew said knee-length cheongsam was elegant.
Logistic manager Lesley Tan said the Chinese traditionalwear these days was pricey.
“I do not feel it is a must to wear one for Chinese New Year and my parents never forced me in this matter,” said Tan, who works in Kuala Lumpur.
If she were to get one though, she would choose a modern cut to keep up with times. She is, however, open to traditional designs especially those in her favourite colours of black, green or maroon.
Responding to the changing preferences and tastes of the younger set, designers are creating fusion designs.
One of them is online blogshop, Doublewoot, which has created more than 200 designs to cater to demand.
Co-owner Helen Tan I-Ling, 30, said their current collection featured plenty of laces and prints.
“We try to source for a lot of laces because our customers want this. By adding lace and floral prints, the most simple design can become elegant and classy, and highlight the oriental beauty,” she said.
Tan said they have created fusion dresses as well to meet the needs of working women who might like to wear cheongsam but found the traditional design restricting to movement.
She gave an example of the Dickayla dress, which she said portrayed a fusion of east and west by integrating soft florals against the classic mode cut.
She said their designs were mostly about fusing the conventional cheongsam with Malaysian culture.
On the colour black, Tan said they had included it in their collection but emphasis was still on colours.
“I think it is acceptable these days (to wear black) during Chinese New Year,” she added.
A home-based and one-of-a-kind cheongsam business, Wow Couture has also moved in the direction of fusion, tailoring cheongsam using local batik.
Pat Kee, 53, who designs and handles the marketing, said batik cheongsam is becoming increasingly popular.
She said the batik was usually combined with plain material in an outfit for contrast.
She added that cotton and linen cheongsam also sell well during Chinese New Year.
“Many find them more comfortable to wear in the hot weather.”
“Lace has also been popular among our customers as it is elegant and feminine. It gives the traditional cheongsam a modern twist,” she said.
Kee said her mother, an 85-year-old seamstress, Wong Kam Tai, is the one who sews the cheongsam at home.
“She has been sewing since she was seven and learnt it from a neighbour,” she said.
Wong said the most difficult part of sewing cheongsam are the pipings and the traditional frog buttons.
Rainbow Forest director Terry Lin Yicheng said peach and pink-coloured cheongsam at his store were the most popular among his customers.
He said his customers also loved lace designs.
“I get my inspiration from my mother’s oil paintings and I add elements from her artworks to my cheongsam designs,” he said.
Lin, from China, said they bought their materials at textile markets in China and work with their manufacturers in Hangzhou, China.
Cheongsam-lover Adeline Chin Mee Yin, 61, said she had been wearing cheongsam to work for the past 30 years.
She likes the batik selection because she finds it versatile and stands out.