Monday, 18 September 2017

In the Mood for Love's QiPao Dresses

I have been doing a lot of rewatching some of my favourite movies.

I watched the movie, In The Mood For Love directed by Wong Car Wai and the extraordinarily beautiful cinematography shot by Christopher Doyle.

The traditional dresses that the actress Maggie Cheung wore were so beautiful and so telegenic.

They were a certain type of cheongsam - traditional Chinese dress.

This was the more casual version of the qi pao( another word for Cheongsam).

I was so entranced by it that I took a picture of every dress she wore through the film!

If you aren't into moody and cinematic mid life crisis-esque love stories, then this isn't for you.

But perhaps the wardrobe might keep you entertained?

The movie is set in 1960's Hong Kong so the dresses aren't Halloween or brothel related as these dresses now tend to viewed in the west. In Asia, it seems dresses such as these are related to holidays and once again...brothels!

But Maggie not only wears it as part of her daily wear but with such grace.

The design as illustrated here works with so many different fabrics and slight variations of the neck, sleeve and button placement.

From quotidian to evening wear.

When I first watched the film when it was released 17 years ago, Mad Men was not even created.

But Maggie plays very much the Hong Kong version of a Joan character as she is a secretary who is visually distracting and used a typewriter.

I was taken aback at how elegant but simulateneously sexy she looked.

Which was confusing because there was no cleavage nor legs on display.

I thought she could be the poster girl for teenagers to demonstrate you don't need to go naked to be viewed as attractive.

The silhouette of the neckline beguiled me throughout.

The dresses seem to have no bad angle either unlike Oscar runway dresses that have just that one angle that will grab headlines.

I loved the versatility of the format to be playful with a daffodil or stern with dark stripes as above and below pics.

This anti cleavage is so refreshing.

I also rewatched it to see the two actors and their chemistry on film.

The couple have had an on and off tryst for years until Tony Leung's wife banned him from even seeing her again.

Which only intensifies the plot when you realise this fact.

I wish I could wear this - apart from any fitting issues - but it would look too costumey.

One of my favourite looks is when blondes wear the cheongsam.

Very Jessica Rabbit in 1920's Shanghai look - one for Halloween?

Visually the movie is shot like  French or Italian Vogue shoot before it was the norm to do so.

Other actresses have tried to mimic the success and the standard that Maggie set with her wardrobe but each time it fails as a third rate imitation.

I miss the old telephone for its dramatic foil.

One had to go to the phone and slamming it had much more impact than pressing a button on your iPhone.

I might have to watch the movie again just to concentrate more on other aspects of the film as I kept stopping it to take pictures.

I only regret that Maggie didn't have more dresses.

I know it won't happen but I am hoping for a sequel to this movie but am afraid the real life relations prevent this from ever happening...


  1. I have a family photo of my mother's family taken in late l940s China. In this photo, she and her sisters look so elegant in their cheongsam dresses and not dated at all. Her father and her brothers also look classically elegant in their white linen summer suits. Interesting to note that both the women's and the men's hairstyles from this period still look so chic.

    1. I don't understand why people in old photos all look so lovely? I love old photos but especially those from shanghai at peak era! Men all seemed to look like Tony L too...

  2. Hi Naomi,

    First time commenting here - I, too, utterly love this film! Fabulous costumes on the beautiful Maggie Cheung aside, the atmosphere created by the music and those slow motion shots of her sweeping through laneways is transfixing. Her poise and graceful walk makes her elegance very sexy indeed. Not to mention the chemistry between her and the equally gorgeous Tony Leung...

    Have you seen '2046'? Quite a different creature.

    Greetings from Sydney,

    1. I thought I would as it seemed the natural progression but the movie was disappointing for me and actually the reference to poor imitation was the qipao worn by that famous actress that just pales in comparison for me. I just want a follow up of Maggie and Tony! Don't you think people would watch purely to see chemistry Vanessa?!

  3. Hello CSW, I would not have thought of going slowly through a movie to document all the costume changes. However, I have done this to study the architecture of a building in the movie. One often finds that the architecture is impossible as shown, and especially that the interiors of buildings rarely match the exteriors.
    P.S. Maggie Cheung certainly looks elegant in those dresses, but the high necks look awfully uncomfortable, now that I am focusing on them.

    1. Luckily as it was on my computer I could stop it at will. I think she has a long neck and if it's custom made it's fine. I think a short neck would not have a great time! It's really just like s turtle neck actually. Not that I've worn many!! I loved the mood in general in this film Jim.

  4. I must see this movie. Maggie has that ethereal style and elegance that was also perfected by Audrey Hepburn. Maggie and Audrey are able to wear the same style of dress yet it is barely noticeable. Tony is very handsome. I also learnt a new word - telegenic. I caught up on a few past blogs and speaking of words really enjoyed your post on overused words and read all the comments. I also support the use of hubris and it has slipped into my conversation quite a lot lately.

    1. Oh you must! I think you'd really enjoy it. I think I was also way too young first time around when life was simpler ;) don't mind me bc hubris is a word that has few substitutes!!!

  5. So enjoyed this post of a film I've yet to see, but will now that you've written about it.

    I cannot believe my reaction to some vintage TV shows that I happen to catch every now and then in regards to the actors' dress. It all looked so stylish back then and it is sad to see the decline in dress sense over the decades. Everything stopped looking good after the 80's and that was far from my favorite decade.

    "No cleavage nor legs on display" .... yes, how refreshing.

    1. Oh please watch CD! With your daughter who will get something totally different at her age as with every passing decade. I also rewatched raise the red lantern - another classic. As I was in my forming teens in the 80's it will never get old! But I think it's nice to see an actress known for her acting through great film than an amateur video of dubious niches no? :)

  6. Stunning, she looks amazing in every photo, the hair, that dress with the neckline... it's rather severe tailoring but it just looks right, very much a uniform of elegance. I will have to see this film!
    Hope you're well Naomi xx

  7. Love the actress's look. She looks gorgeous. The neck line looks so fabulous on her. Must watch it with my teen who is a very modest dresser but then again she's grown up with me saying don't think you'll leave this home dressed like that,if someone on tv/ screen or in a magazine has everything hanging out. I think she'd appreciate the fashion.
    Loved the look of the turtle neck when I was younger but as turkey gobble neck & middle life gather speed not such a good look. Thanks for this post. Den xx

    1. She does have a long neck to suit - there was another famous actress who wore these dresses to emulate and even though she also had a long neck it just didn't have the same impact. I don't know if there is an exact formula to these things? I was told I was too stiff when I wore turtlenecks by a stranger once. I thought it just protected my neck from the cold hehe xx

  8. Remember seeing the review of this movie on "The Movie Show", the brilliant David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz film review/interview program, beloved of Australians of a certain age. They often disagreed with each other - devotees looked forward to it each week as they were both really expert on the movies. I remember David just loved this movie and Maggie Cheung. From memory she did indeed look both elegant and sexy in those dresses. They may not have shown cleavage or legs but they were (also quite clear from your pics) very body conscious cuts with fabric that enhanced the body line underneath, requiring a perfect figure.
    I enjoy the nostalgia movie dresses of Edwardian times particularly, though thank heavens fashion moved on. It's so beautiful to look at but would have been a nightmare to wear and care for. And require a maid. Best wishes, Pammie

    1. Gosh I used to love the movie show but used to watch when they were still on SBS!! I don't know about the perfect figure analogy because it is so subjective. I think it is for a slim build without too much curvature and bumps. Im not sure Marilyn Monroe would have really been ideal candidate for instance. I think lithe figure comes to mind. I don't like Edwardian fashion at all and think it was just a blessing I was not born during that time!!!

  9. Oh, I loved that film. I can't even remember what it was about but I remember everyone was so gorgeous. Thank you for capturing it so well!

  10. You make some very valid points. She looks riveting.

  11. Just catching up - love the cheongsam action. I have always shied away from wearing them as I think they suit a more slender up and down figure. Agree that they're so elegant. I nearly bought a modern take on them in a shop in Singapore (in the Raffles arcade upstairs, can't remember what it was called). It was a designer's shop and she had a whole section of tops, dresses etc that were based on the cheongsam but a little more modern in their interpretation. Sadly none fitted me!! That's what I mean about suiting a certain figure type.
    My older sister wore a red cheongsam for her wedding. All the guests that were older family and friends were a little perplexed at the very Chinese theming she'd done (there was a lion dance after the vows and indoor fireworks) and kept asking "but who is Asian?" in puzzlement as her husband wasn't either. She just liked the style!! It was pretty funny.

  12. How beautiful!! Even just from the photos it’s evident how beautifully and gracefully she moves and holds herself! Funny that the dresses would make one notice what a beautiful neck she has despite her neck being covered!


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