Bridal Red: Qua or Qipao

I was psyched when I found a -- no, the -- dress for my wedding -- ivory, lace, train, the works. But apparently one dress is not good enough for a Chinese wedding. My mom (in the voice reserved for things of monumental importance) demands at least 3 dresses: a "western" bridal gown, a Chinese qua or qipao, and an evening gown. Apparently ("There are rules! Rules!") not only does custom dictate how many dresses one must change into (some brides go for as many as 7!), it also dictates when one must change into these getups, as well as what type of jewelry goes with each outfit. There goes my dream of sashaying about in my Monique Lhuillier all night. I'm going to spend all night changing from one outfit to another.  

[What Hong Kong looks like from a cab after a loooong day of wedding shopping.]

Oh well.  No use whining when one could be out shopping.  So this week, Hot Mama Cocoa, Sister HC, and I have been hitting the very hot pavement in Hong Kong in search of my Chinese outfit. 

The first choice I had to make is whether to go with a qua or a qipao for the tea ceremony.  The qua is a two-piece wedding costume that is ancient in provenance.  Here's a neat little explanation from Koon Nam Wah, Hong Kong's most established qua maker:
There are two types of traditional ceremonial costumes: . . . long gowns and short jackets . . . for men, and [qua] for women. In the past, people of the middle and upper class often wore these traditional costumes for birthday banquets or on other grand occasions. In recent decades, however, [qua] embroidered with the dragon-and-phoenix pattern has been the ceremonial costume for brides. . . . The wedding costumes are usually embroidered with auspicious patterns such as the dragon and phoenix, mandarin ducks or flowers and plants. Traditional [qua] have two decorative sashes embroidered at the centre of the lapel. These bands are called zisundai ("offspring" bands), which means "having an abundance of offspring."
It looks something like this:

In recent years, brides have opted for something a little more body-conscious, less boxy, more vavavavoom.  Hence, the qipao (sometimes called cheongsam).*  Here is a conventional version of the qipao, red with the dragon/phoenix embroidery:

* Some people also explain the choice between quas and qipaos as a regional one; northern Chinese brides wear one-piece dresses, while southern ones wear the two-piece qua. Neither I nor my family had heard of this difference before I sought wisdom from Auntie Google, but Auntie Google doesn't lie (or so my students claim).

At first, I thought the choice between a qipao and a qua was a no-brainer. Look, baby's got back.  And it does not look good in a boxy, straight skirt.  I mean, who wants to look like an embroidered potato sack?  And even Hot Grandmama Cocoa was certain that quas were dated, the equivalent of wearing a "rad" hypercolor t-shirt with Z Cavaricci jeans to the opening of NY Fashion Week.

But then I went to look at quas in person at the Wing Wah Embroidery Co. and was floored by the amazing embroidery:

As you can see, the embroidery is lush, artful, and three-dimensional. Here is a particularly fine specimen of a well-embroidered qua; the silver embroidery almost covers all of the red satin underlay, and the gold dragons and phoenixes literally pop off the material:

And here is darling Mrs. Toucan, looking gorgeous in hers:
The prospect of wearing an art piece alone probably would have swung me over to the qua side. But then I visited Koon Nam Wah's website and read all about the xi fu (masters) who create KNW's embroidered pieces.  The xi fu have to do some pretty fine embroidery work, so it's no surprise that KNW selects only those with skill and dexterity.  But that's not all.  You see, sweat can damage the embroidery and material.  So KNW selects only xi fu who don't sweat.  Yeah, you read that right.  Only those with the ability to suppress their glandular secretions need apply.

Beautiful embroidery?  Nice.  Beautiful embroidery done by little old men with no sweat glands? Awesome.  I must have it.  Plus the curmudgeonly xi fu I spoke with at KNW said he could make me a more modern qua, with a scalloped edge on the bottom of the jacket and a slightly more fitted shape.  Sold.

As for the qipao, well, I'm not giving that up either.  I have a scheme to reinterpret the classic qipao to make it work as fusion formal wear.  More on that to come.

In the meantime, tell me . . . have you made any wedding attire decisions that surprised you?

Carlin  – (March 30, 2017 at 4:22 AM)  

Thanks for sharing,the design of these cheongsam dresses are very good-looking, wear up will be very explicit figure, this dress is especially suitable for women .here i share you a good site for you to see more .both the quality and price are wonderful!!

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