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Qipao 2.0



Can a traditional dress adapt to modern tastes? You bet, today's style-makers tell Tiffany Tan.

In its ninth decade, the qipao is getting a big makeover. Instead of its characteristic mandarin collar, the dress is coming out in U-, V-shaped, square, scalloped and sweetheart necklines.

Sometimes its ubiquitous skirt slit is nowhere to be found, and its customary front overlap and loop frog buttons do not actually come undone.

In some evening-gown versions, the sleeves are transformed into layers of ruffles, the back is totally bare or it gets a mermaid skirt with a train.

"The qipao of today can be modified according to the wearer's age and the occasion," Guo Pei, regarded as China's top haute couture designer, says, referring to the dress using its Chinese name.

For film celebrity Zhang Ziyi's appearance in Olympia, Greece, at the start of the torch relay for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Guo created a white, halter-neck qipao. The contemporary cut of the neckline and sleeves were offset by embroidery featuring auspicious Chinese symbols: a dragon on the bodice and a crane against white clouds on the skirt.

"If you limit your understanding of the qipao to some small elements or details, it says you don't truly understand this Chinese dress," Guo says in a phone interview. "But the qipao still has special elements that distinguish it from Western dress, such as its simple style and body-hugging fit."

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