Behind the Seams: ‘In the Mood for Love’ Cheongsam

Welcome to this week’s BTS!

The Theme & Inspiration

TSW challenge theme this week is unrequited love in movies and I knew I would be doing one of Wong Kar Wai’s films. Not only is Wong one of my favorite film directors of all time, most of his films are about unrequited love. ‘As Tears Go By‘(1988), ‘Day of Being Wild‘(1990), ‘ChungKing Express‘ (1994), ‘In the Mood for Love’ (2000) and ‘2046’ (2004) all dealt with the theme of unrequited love. Have you watched any of these films? My favorite is definitely ‘ChungKing Express’.

Nonetheless, my eventual choice was very much influenced by my current needs- the upcoming Lunar New Year celebrations. As such, I decided to sew a cheongsam inspired by ‘In the Mood for Love’.

This film used the actress’ change in cheongsam to signify the passage of time and she wore 23 gorgeous ones in total. These cheongsams are atypical as they had higher than usual stand collars, more defined shoulders and the fabric used reminded me of modern art pieces.

You can find my Sew Weekly blog post here.

Photo Gallery

Finally, some photos without my white bathroom wall…

But I find that the white wall is still best for seeing details…

Adapting the sloper

Sewing this cheongsam was surprising fast and easy. I did however spent time to adapt the slopers to use as sewing pattern. I used the slopers from Built By Wendy Dresse (BBWD) book to make this cheongsam. The projects (here, here, here and here) I’ve done from the book definitely helped a great deal in making the drafting for this project possible and I will just highlight some important changes in modifying the slopers for a cheongsam here.

I joined the sheath and shift dress slopers at the armhole so that I have four waist darts from the sheath dress, the bust darts and armholes from the shift dress.

I also had to move the neckline higher (both front and back) and drafted my own stand collar and front facings.

Using the front facing, it helped me to identify the area to cut away from the right front shoulder as indicated by the line across.

This is how it looked after I’ve cut off the right shoulder area.

All BBWD slopers do not come with seam allowance so it makes merging pieces to form a new outfit easier. I usually add the seam allowances on the pre-cut fabric with fabric chalk before cutting.

Cheongsam and Me

Prior to the film ‘In the Mood for Love’, I stayed away from the cheongsam completely as it was often associated with the uniforms of Chinese restaurant waitresses or bar hostesses. Soon after the movie, the traditional costume made its comeback and my friend, Audrey (in pink) even had a Shanghai Tang theme wedding shortly after.

My husband and I registered for marriage in Brisbane Australia when we were studying for our masters degrees and a few years later we had our traditional ceremonial wedding back in Singapore. This time, very much influenced by the film, I included two cheongsams (besides my wedding and evening gowns) in my clothes lineup. I wore a green cheongsam made of Thai silk for the tea ceremony while my mum wore a pretty red version with scallop hem.

And for the wedding dinner that same evening, I wore a blue cheongsam, also made of Thai silk with crystal embellished stand collar and armhole.

I opted for Thai silk for both my wedding cheongsams as I preferred the more subtle fabric sheen compared to Chinese silk brocade.

It took me years to find my love for sewing and a little more time to find a fabric with an artistic print I love enough to sew this cheongsam with. Which was why I was so touched by what my husband said last Thursday when he saw the cheongsam hanging in our room. He told me it looked like an art piece and I thought that is exactly it, exactly how I felt looking at the 23 cheongsams from ‘In the Mood of Love’. That got me feeling happy all night!

I hope you like this cheongsam. I’m definitely wearing it out for visiting relatives and friends during the Lunar New Year!



43 thoughts on “Behind the Seams: ‘In the Mood for Love’ Cheongsam

  1. it’s amazing you draft your own pattern! it’s a beautiful piece of dress. i think there will be envious looks your way during the cny. 😉

  2. I love your cheongsam. But I disagree with your choice of movie. Quite definitely it is from “Love is a many splendid thing” (based on Han Suyin’s autobiographical book) which won a top award for its costumes.

    I arrived in HK in 1970 and at that time many older women still wore cheongsams for special occasions. They looked stunning and they took the opportunity to show off their jade and (very gold) gold jewellery. Younger women didn’t wear them much although I saw many as one or two as dress changes during wedding banquets. These were generally of very lavish fabric eg lace with gold thread, or satin or silk with elaborate beading. Many older women also wore simple cotton versions as their everyday style.

    I always preferred the older women’s versions which were generally made of beautiful printed or woven silk. Sometimes they were sleeveless with a matching tailored jacket.

    In those days there were over a dozen fabulous large fabric shops along Nathan Road near Jordan Road. Just one remains now near Hillwood Road. How I loved these shops. My mother in law bought the lace for my own wedding dress from one of these shops. I made it myself, some thing that I always felt was looked down on. (Why would a uni graduate and teacher make her own clothes? Doesn’t she know her position?)

    When I started teaching the teachers had to wear light blue cotton cheongsams in summer and dark blue in winter. As a qwaipor (foreign woman) I was excused from the style but had to adher to the colours and the well below the knee length (despite the then fashion of mini dresses). The dresses had to have sleeves (you wouldn’t appear before the Pope with bare arms would you?) Our students wore white dresses in summer in the old box pleated and belted style. I don’t know how their mothers managed to keep them so clean and pressed so beautifully, especially in the sramped living conditions that most of them lived in.

    Many schools in HK in 1970 still wore cheongsams for student uniforms. But I can’t remember seeing any students in them in my recent visits to HK.

    I do love visiting the Shanghai Tang shops when I am in HK. So there is hope still for a revival.

    I suspect that the decline in their popularity by older women is associated with the decrease in tailors in HK. While there are plenty of tailors in China many don’t have the skills because of course such clothes were frowned on for many years. Coincidentally I have just finished skimming a library book on this topic “Changing clothes in China : fashion, history, nation” by Antonia Finnane, 2007.

  3. I think you look beautiful! The fit on your cheongsam is so perfect. I wish I had the courage to draft my own patterns!

  4. I love the cheongsam! Lovelovelove 🙂 I had one from a thrift store in my late teens but then as my weight kept changing (as it does when you’re growing, and then having babies) it never fit right, so I passed it on. Now that my size is stable and I am sewing, I should try and make one. Maybe not in brocade satin, which is lovely but murder to sew.

    I would die for that blue one from your wedding…

  5. I love that you used a modern print fabric to make a traditional cheongsam. It is gorgeous. I remember watching In the Mood for Love and having a hard time reading the subtitles and following the story, because all I wanted to look at was each of the beautiful (and miraculously unwrinkled) cheongsams the lead actress wore.

  6. I LOVE this! I loved that movie too, and all of those dresses. I especially loved the mod prints on some of them, and I like how you went with that idea instead of traditional brocade fabric.

  7. It’s a beautiful dress and you look stunning in it : the colors and shape really suit you very well!!

    I’ve been contemplating making my own cheong-sam (I rather tend to call them Qi-Pao, but I have no idea what the difference is) for a while, now, and will probably end up using a vintage pattern like this one : I rather pictured a cotton or silk with flower prints, but your version makes me consider abstract designs, too!

  8. Thank you everyone, I am so glad some of you have watched “In the Mood of Love’ and understand where I’m coming from:)

    @Irene: Thanks for sharing the info on Hong Kong’s cheongsam scene, it was very interesting to me. I am afraid I have yet to watch “Love is a many splendid thing” though I am sure it is a great film:) There were many movies where cheongsams were wore and what made ‘ITMFL’ stood out to me was the use of non traditional cheongsam fabrics so it is the film that truly inspired me to make this piece in such a modern fabric:)

    @Tanit-Isis: Oh! You really should, you will look smoking in one! Thanks, the blue one is pretty special to me as well:)

    @Audrey: LOL! I’m with you on that one! The fabrics used couldn’t be cotton!

    @Carlotta Stermaria: Thank you! Cheongsam and Qipao are the same. Cheongsam is the pronunciation in Cantonese while Qipao is in Mandarin. Hope it clarifies:) The vintage pattern is beautiful, I especially like the keyhole below the collar.

  9. Beautifull! I really love that kind of dress. And it is nice from you to show a little part of your life through a dress. (you’re really gorgeous)

  10. I haven’t really seen such a modern art piece of a Cheongsam such as this. What an inspired version! I think this Cheongsam could be worn on very many occassions. Thank you for sharing the pictures. You carry off this style of dress really well.

  11. Holy cannoli, this is gorgeous. I remember seeing In the Mood for Love when I was living in Shanghai, and I immediately fell in love the the costumes. So elegant and dreamy (like his films!).

    But I’m also impressed with how you put the pattern together. I’ve finally started tapping into this book (to adjust an existing shift into a sheath) but I never would have thought to combine the patterns! Brilliant.

  12. I love your choice of fabric! But hmmm, I think the cheongsam will looks muchmuch better if you used a true blue cheongsam pattern. There are bits of excess cloth at the back and shoulder. Was this pattern drafted from scratch?

  13. Thanks Chloe, the pattern was drafted from slopers. There aren’t any excess fabric on the shoulder but there is a wee bit at the back which I knew would exist as I didn’t insert a zipper. I am pretty happy with the fit myself since this is a ‘pull over’ dress. Using a cheongsam pattern doesn’t guarantee better fit as with all other sewing patterns. Most of the time the fit is best adjusted at the seams during fitting.

  14. Hi Adel,

    I think what Chloe meant was to draft a cheongsam pattern using your own measurements. It can’t go wrong. To make a cheongsam with a better fit, it is best to make a sample first, try it on, alter the pattern and then work on the actual fabric.

  15. Thanks hunnyxpot for the clarification. I’m just an advanced beginner so I do not know how to draft a pattern using my own measurements yet though I am keen to learn how that can be done. I am also doing the Sew Weekly Challenge to sew a garment a week for 52 weeks so unfortunately I don’t actually have time to do a muslin at this stage. Perhaps I will take up the challenge to do so next new year:)

  16. Pingback: Dresses I shouldn’t be sewing | Tanit-Isis Sews

  17. I had two made in China last year. I love, love, love them. But, I do wish I had them in cotton as the brocade / satin pulls terribly. I ran all over Shanghai looking for a drafting book for the designs!

  18. Pingback: Wedding invitation = brand new dress! « Lu – she knits and she sews

  19. This is absolutely stunning!

    I was wondering if I could commission you to sew a cheongsam for me. I realize that you are in the middle of a huge project but I have no specific timeline. In the Mood for Love is one my husband’s most favorite films and I would love to surprise him with an inspiring dress.

    Please contact me at nicoleledford at gmail dot com.

  20. oh what a wonderful film, and a wonderful dress ! I discover your blog today and I really love it ! all your dresses are so lovely !!! I’ll be back …..

  21. I love the Qipao. Both your green and blue silk Qipao wedding dresses are absolutely stunning! You looked beautiful in them and definitely an heirloom to be passed down to your daughter later! Its also amazing how you made a Qipao of your own as it can be a tricky dress to make! Really glad to have discovered your blog and all your sewing adventures…especially the Qipao ones!
    May x

  22. you’re really a just right webmaster. The
    site loading velocity is incredible. It seems that you are doing any distinctive trick.
    In addition, The contents are masterwork. you’ve done a magnificent job in this matter!

  23. I’ve just discovered your blog, what a lovely article. I’m inspired to watch these movies, the pictures that you’ve posted are lovely. No lovelier than you look, in your beautiful green and blue silk cheongsams.

  24. Hey! This post could not be written any better! Reading this post reminds me
    of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this.
    I will forward this article to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read.
    Thanks for sharing!

  25. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally,
    it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point.

    You obviously know what youre talking about,
    why waste your intelligence on just posting videos to
    your blog when you could be giving us something informative to read?

  26. Thanks for one’s marvelous posting! I truly enjoyed
    reading it, you may be a great author.I will make certain to
    bookmark your blog and may come back down the road.
    I want to encourage continue your great job, have a
    nice afternoon!

  27. Excellent goods from you, man. I’ve understand your
    stuff previous to and you are just too great. I actually like what you have acquired here, certainly like what you are
    stating and the way in which you say it. You make it enjoyable and you still care for
    to keep it smart. I cant wait to read far more from you. This is
    really a tremendous site.

  28. Hello! I understand this is sort of off-topic but I needed to ask.
    Does building a well-established website like yours take a large amount of work?
    I’m completely new to writing a blog however I do write in my diary everyday.
    I’d like to start a blog so I will be able to share my own experience and thoughts online.
    Please let me know if you have any kind of recommendations
    or tips for new aspiring bloggers. Appreciate

  29. It’s actually very difficult in this full of activity life to listen news on Television, therefore I simply use world wide web for that purpose,
    and get the latest information.

  30. I’m impressed, I have to admit. Seldom do I come across a blog
    that’s both educative and amusing, and without a doubt, you have hit the
    nail on the head. The issue is something that too few men and women are speaking
    intelligently about. I’m very happy I stumbled across this during my search for something relating to this.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s