What am I asking in another language. you might ask? Well, I’m neither asking nor is that title in one language. The words are the names for three beautiful types of Southeast Asian garments for men and women, though mostly worn by women today, pictured in the gallery at the bottom of the post.

  • Áo dai (read ow yai, with inflections not given) is the traditional Vietnamese dress that more resembles a Western gown than dress.
  • Qípáo (pronounced ch’ip’ao) is a Chinese gown, named in Mandarin and often thought of as the female version of the Chinese gown.
  • Cheongsam (pronounced play /i.ɒŋˈsæm/) is also a Chinese gown that is often thought of as the male version of the Chinese gown. However, many think of the qípáo and cheongsam as being interchangeable names, with male version names slightly varied from these names.

You can read more about each type of garment, and their histories, via the Wikipedia links provided. I wanted to introduce you to them if you have never heard of them, or maybe never even having seen them.

The three garments look reasonably similar, and their modernization have made them more similar in some ways, as well as looking rather different from their traditional form in other ways. What they do have in common is their body hugging nature that will flaunt a beautiful body, and their intense colours, sometimes with radiant patterns and/or embroidery, that make them stand out in any crowd.

The Vietnamese áo dài is that basic “gown” look, but with slits on the sides quite high up to the stomach. That is because it is intended to be worn with flowing pants. Anything less than pants and you’re looking at Asian steampunk (they are originally from the 17th centrury that were more conservative in design) or fantasy character sort of costumes like in Mortal Kombat. Yes, you just wait till I find a girl to do Asian steampunk for, as well as me, though I promise to wear pants, hahaha!

The Chinese qípáo and cheongsam do not have much of a slit, and can be a variety of lengths from shorter than short skirts to ground length gown. They are sexy in their own ways with that length and greater body curvature hugging, in terms of garment cut, whereas the áo dài has the side slits. The tops of both are sexy in similar ways with everything from cut to coverage. See what I mean by looking at the start of my Pinterest Asian Fashion board.

All three of these garments are very sexy and striking. Yet, I don’t see a lot of them around in Canada, and especially not on Caucasian women. As a person who loves contrast, I would dare to say I think Caucasian women look better in them than Asian women with the lighter skin colour to contrast the often intense reds, blues, blacks, among other colours of the Chinese silks and brocades from which these garments are made. It doesn’t seem a lot of Canadian women think about these garments when they’re looking for sexy and memorable garments to wear that will wow a crowd, and that’s too bad because these garments do just that! Just go look in some Chinese stores or in Chinatown if you live in a city big enough to have one.

As for making these garments, some descriptions say they’re “one-piece”, but that’s the original traditional forms that aren’t nearly as flattering. They’re not that hard other than the fit because you’ve got to get that right and well if you want to really show off someone’s body, especially a woman’s curves. However, there is a bonus in learning how to make these garments, especially the Chinese ones. You can make a blouse version simply by cutting the pattern short! Two for one deal!

I haven’t researched that much into making these garments or if there are patterns for them. This German qipao site seems to be a reasonable place to start, though. I think I’m just going to have to get some old áo dài from Vietnamese women I know with some, and from the site recommended, as a starting point to designing and making some of these. If anyone has other suggestions, please let me know.

p.s. Don’t bother with the Burda Style qipao pattern. I don’t know what that is but it ain’t qipao.

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