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China Chicby Vivienne Tam
Synopses & Reviews
Shirt, clothing, or topwear. It's a term with a range of meanings, from the loose and accommodating to the svelte and fashionable. The "shan" doesn't simply cover, it caresses, concealing and revealing to perfection. Cheongsam is Cantonese for long shirt; in Mandarin the term most often used is "qipao," literally banner gown, "qi" being the term for a Manchu military division.My Mother's Dress
To me, the cheongsam is really a homemade dress, because we made most of our own clothes. I remember my mother taking me to the tailor to see the huge bolts of cheongsam fabric in his shop--silk brocades, jaequards, and great prints--a flood of color and texture. Then we'd go to the street market and find a stall that sold fabric remnants. My mother said we could make better combinations with the pieces we bought there, because remnants were unique.
She made Western clothes for me, everything from party dresses to school uniforms. She taught me how to work with my hands; I learned how to knit and crochet, and to do needlepoint and embroidery. She would say, Don't dress like everybody else, it's better to be different.
I've been collecting cheongsams since high school. I love the beautiful embroidery and dragon beading, the lined lace from the sixties, the crochetwork from the seventies. Good friends know I love old clothes. I remember once walking down a street in Wanchai and hearing someone call my name. It was a friend who said, "Hey, I found a cheongsam for you, I think it'll fit!" He was right--it was a red printed satin jacquard number that he'd found in the rubbish on the sidewalk, and I still have it in my collection!
When I first tried them on, the best way to describe the way I felt is to say that the cheongsams made me feel like a young woman. It was like playing dress-up, partly because I'd always connected the cheongsam with my mother. I felt more mature, and the structure of the dress immediately forced me to be more disciplined. I still remember my embarrassment when I ripped the side slit climbing on a bus too quickly.
The problems with wearing the cheongsam were obvious: the collar was so restrictingtoo stiff and impossibly hot in the summer. The shape of the torso was also confining-you can't really eat much in a cheongsam! The wearer becomes very body-conscious, in both good and bad ways. She might worry about her figure, but she also becomes moreaware of how her body feels when she moves, stands, or sits.
As I got more used to the cheongsam, I started to experiment. The essence of the cheongsam is in a few basic details: the cross opening, the high neck, the close fit to the body, and the side slits. These elements make up a kind of grid-you can change the variables but not the basic form . Nothing else really matters. The sleeves don't matter at all; the tailoring can be nipped with darts or fall straight from the shoulder. The cross opening is unique to Asian dressing, and I find it very inspiring. I like to wear the collar unbuttoned, creating a new slit from neck to armpit. Even if no skin is exposed, it's very sexy. It might be suggestive of a Chinese bordello, but it's also very liberating.
The way the cheongsam shapes the body is unique. The collar makes the wearer hold her head up high, totally realigning her posture and separating the head from the body; she looks proud, and a little bit up in the clouds. The narrow cut holds the body in, but the slits at the hem liberate the legs. The body is revealed, every movement means more.
One of today's hottest designers takes readers on an illustrated journey of Chinese style--from fashion and food to art and architecture--introducing the people, places, and things that have inspired her. Color photos throughout.
East meets West in this lavishly illustrated book of Chinese style — from fashion and food to art and architecture and home decor.This visual memoir by one of today's hottest designers is full of stunning candor and beauty.
In this beautifully designed and stylish book, fashion icon Vivienne Tam, chosen by People magazine as one of the world's "50 Most Beautiful People," shares the rare individuality of her own crosscultural style, combining traditional Eastern elements with a modern Western edge.The seductive "East-meets-West" journey featuring the people, places, and things that give her inspiration.She teaches us how to savor the world in a simple bowl of noodles and shows us the essence of Chinese design and her favorite Ming chair.China Chic is style that is hot, hip, and pervasive in today's — and tomorrow's culture.
About the Author
Vivienne Tam was born in Canton, China, but emigrated to Hong Kong where she was three years old. She has been featured in Newsweek, People, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Town &Country, Marie Claire, Harpers Bazarre, and Instyle . Her fashions are respresented in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Museum at F.I.T., and the Andy Warhol museum. She now lives in New York City, where she runs a thriving international fashion-based- business.
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