HKDI in the Spotlight

Qipao Stamps Illustrated by HKDI Students

17 October 2016

Qipao, a traditional Chinese dress for women that first came into vogue in the 1920s, accentuates the gracefulness of the feminine physique with its oriental charm. To review the evolution of the qipao which has spanned almost a century, Hongkong Post issued a set of stamps on the theme of “Qipao” in October 2017. This set of six stamps, together with the stamp sheetlets, exhibits the special characteristics of the qipao dresses from different decades. Illustrations on the stamps are the works of students from Higher Diploma in Visual Arts and Culture at HKDI.

In 2015, HKDI organised an exhibition titled “Orient Beauty” showcasing a variety of Qipao, vinyls, movie flyers, vintage magazines in Hong Kong from the colonial period in 1920s to the contemporary era of 2010. A group of students from Higher Diploma in Visual Arts and Culture created some illustrations of qipao and old street scenes as promotional materials and exhibition backdrop. Afterwards, they were invited by Hongkong Post to draw a series of qipao demonstrating the evolution of qipao over the years. Finally, the illustrations done by two students, Yolanda and Mel, were selected for the issue of Qipao stamps. In addition to getting references from some books about Qipao, they had been advised by some master tailors with the help of HKDI lecturers in order to learn more unique characteristics of qipao at different decades. Every details shown on their illustrations ranging from the make-up, hair styling to the cutting of the qipao and etc could present the interesting story of qipao as well as the unique feature of different years.

Qipao in the 1920s inherited the wide and straight cut of long gowns of the Qing dynasty. Qipao in the 1930s became the most popular daily attire among women. The qipao at that time mostly adopted a slim and slender cut, with higher slits on both sides to allow easier movements. Qipao in the 1940s had its hemline raised to the calf and the collar lowered. The dresses were made of plainer fabrics with few embellishments. Qipao in the 1950s was characterised by a slender cut, an indented hem and a higher collar. The qipao became the most elegant and decent dress for women for going out and the mainstream work attire for office ladies. Qipao in the 1960s bore a similar style to that of the 1950s including shortened length, a slim waistline, a body-hugging fit and a narrow hemline to create an hourglass figure. Qipao in the 1970s gradually fell from grace as western outfits won hearts. Nevertheless, the qipao continued to be worn as a ceremonial dress and thus became the attire for special occasions. Contemporary qipao has retained the classical design while undergoing refinement and recasting by introducing contemporary fashion elements into the fabrics, cut and styles, hence reinforcing its prestigious status as a perennial classic.