Qipao: the Sexy Elegance

Qipao, also known as cheongsam (Cantonese) or mandarin gown, is a female dress with distinctive Chinese features and enjoys a growing popularity in the international world of fashion. 

Easy to slip on and comfortable to wear, qipao fits well the female Chinese figure. Its neck is high, collar closed, and its sleeves may be short, medium or full length, depending on season and taste. The dress is buttoned on the right side, with a loose chest, a fitting waist, and slits up from the sides, all of which combine to set off the beauty of the female shape.

There is actually a story behind the dress. When the early Manchu rulers came to China, they organized certain people, mainly Manchus, into "banners" (qi) and called them "banner people" (qiren). The Manchu women wore normally a one-piece dress which, likewise, came to be called "qipao" or "banner dress." Although the 1911 Revolution toppled the rule of the Qing (Manchu) Dynasty, the female dress survived the political change and, with later improvements, has become the traditional dress for Chinese women.

The modern version of the qipao was first developed in Shanghai around 1900. Slender and form fitting with a high cut, it contrasted sharply with the traditional qipao which was designed to conceal the figure and be worn regardless of age. The modernized version is especially noted for accentuating the figures of women, and as such is highly popular as a dress for high society. 

The Founding of the P.R.China in 1949 ended the qipao and other fashions in Shanghai, but the Shanghainese emigrants and refugees brought the fashion to Hong Kong where it has remained popular. Recently there has been a revival of the Shanghainese qipao in Shanghai and elsewhere in Mainland China; the Shanghainese style functions now mostly as a stylish party dress.

Qipao is usually seen in popular culture. The movie In the Mood for Love by Wong Kar-wai of a Shanghainese community in Hong Kong is notable for its use of a variety of qipao worn by female lead Maggie Cheung. In the movie The World of Suzie Wong, Nancy Kwan made qipao briefly fashionable in the west. The popular Chinese Street Fighter video game character Chun Li is very well known for her signature blue qipao which is worn with white knee-high boots for a non-traditional style.

Source: www.answers.com