‘In the Mood for Love’ Cheongsam | Adey Lim
Fabric: Stretch Cotton Sateen from Spotlight Sale US$11.30 for 2 yards
Pattern: Built by Wendy Dresses
Year: c. 2010
Notions: 3 frog closures US$4.20
Time to complete: 8 hours including pattern drafting
First worn: To be worn early February for Lunar New Year
Wear again: Absolutely and I want to make another!
Total Cost for outfit: ~$ 15. 50
“It is drop-dead gorgeous. I doubt I’ll see a more elegant looking film this year…the film’s use of costuming is particularly noteworthy, as the costume changes of Cheung’s character are often used to show us the passage of time “-MovieMartyr.com, September 2001 on ‘In the Mood for Love’
It was those ‘costume changes’, the 23 beautiful cheongsams actress Maggie Cheung wore in the multi award winning art-house film ‘In the Mood of Love (2000)’ (Do watch that trailer!) that inspired my creation this week. The film uses 1962 Hong Kong as a backdrop to explore a common theme that has consumed Wong Kar-Wai’s films. The theme of unrequited love. It tells the story of a married man and woman, living in rented rooms next to each other. The two fall in love while grappling with the infidelities of their respective spouses whom they discover are involved with each other. This throw them into an uncertain affair which they appear not to consummate, out of societal and moral restraints.
The cheongsam as we know it today was created in the 1920s in Shanghai and was made fashionable by the upper class. In modern times, typical cheongsams are made of Chinese brocade silk and is commonly associated with uniforms of Chinese restaurant waitresses or bar girls and for this reason, one of the greatest fears my friends and I had was to be mistaken for one when in a cheongsam. Which was why we never wanted to wear them.
Watching the award winning movie by director Wong Kar Wai completely changed my perception of cheongsams, and that of millions of women. In place of Chinese brocade silk were non traditional fabrics which were art pieces themselves. The style from the film also came with a significantly higher and stiffer stand collar which showed off the actress’ slender neck and distinct shoulder. The film literally brought a revival to the traditional garment! A particular boutique frequent by socialites in Singapore charges at least US$560 for a made to measure piece (The Business Times, 20 January 2009)! I am so glad I’ve managed to sew one myself.
While searching for a cheongsam pattern, I noticed that the Fatina on burdastyle was a simple shift dress with stand collar. I wanted a front side opening at the collar to be fasten with frog closures and eventually decided to adapt some slopers for the pattern. The Built By Wendy Dresses book came with three slopers (see image below). A sheath, a shift and a dirndl. I merged the sheath dress sloper which has four waist darts with the shift dress sloper bodice, adding bust darts to the pattern. For sleeves, I opted for the dirndl as they were the shortest. The stand collar and additional front bodice facings were self drafted.
This is my first attempt in making a cheongsam and I’m really pleased with the result. It is also the first time I use frog closures. I really wanted to use them as they reminded me of my late grandma who used frogs in place of buttons for all her tailored tops.
The fabric is a lovely cotton sateen with some stretch in the width. It was very easy to work with and because of the stretch it had, I didn’t need a zipper. This is only the second time I’ve used this fabric, the first was for my ‘Reflection of the Moon’ frock and it is fast becoming one of my favorite fabrics to work with.
More about my personal experiences with cheongsams and other Behind the Seams information for this garment on The Sew Convert.