A Travellerspoint blog


sunny 10 °F

A group of teachers got together to go buy a "traditional" Chinese dresse referred to in mandarin as a chipao. Most of us westerners have only seen it in Chinese restaurants, but it's really a beautifuly cut dress made from a colorful shiny embroidered, or in the modern era, woven fabric with scenic, floral or abstract designs. For a fuller history, you can check out the wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheongsam. I believe the chipao fabric was the inspiration for the aloha shirt as well.

Let me share the process of ordering a dress in China. First you find the fashion district in the area. In Harbin, it's much like the fashion district in LA, but with more craziness. If you've never been to a "fashion district," let me tell you, it's not very fashionable. There are several blocks of buildings filled with tiny booths selling fabric, leather, fur and cut-to-order garments. Those are the kind we were looking for. We started out at a place that specializes in suits, but we were afraid they might not be as good at dresses, so we walked a couple blocks to another warehouse filled with booths. On the walk, we passed open yards of garment waste. But as you can see, it was not all going to waste. Scavengers were picking through the rubble for odds and ends.


I don't know why they passed up this work of art.


We eventually found this place that specialized in the dresses and jackets we were interested in.




You walk through a few tightly packed aisles looking for the fabric you want, then you look through some pattern catalogs that they nice ladies at the store show you. They have different variations on length, sleeves, collars and buttons.


Here's the fabric I chose.


And my friend Judy's (much more refined taste, I think)...


We got to tell the lady if we wanted any changes. I made my pattern longer and told her I wanted black trim (IN CHINESE - I was so proud).


Then they took our measurements. It's amazing how accurate they could be over our winter clothes.


Pay up front (like everything in China). Only 220 Yuan which is a little less than $40.


Two weeks later they delivered our chipao to the school. Mine fit perfectly.

Our whole group:



Posted by Blanchardlawn 22:48 Archived in China Tagged clothing chipao

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Beautiful! Dress, and wearer :)

by Bethany

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