Hot! ‘In the Mood for Love’ Cheongsam | Adey Lim


IMG_0268 The Facts

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 “, 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.



Adey Sew Convert

A former kids' television channel manager turned stay home mum from Singapore, I hated sewing since I attended my first home economic class at the age of 14. In 2007, something miraculous happened when God blessed me with a second pregnancy. I discovered that I was expecting a baby girl. That changed everything. First I went crazy shopping for handmade clothes for her on etsy. Then I decided I needed to make something for her on my own. I was a month from my due date when I took an intensive 8-hour sewing class. In Dec 2008, I made a dress for my princess before she was born and have not stopped sewing since.


Comments are closed.

  1. So gorgeous! And that print is wonderful!

  2. Hey realy nice collation

  3. That is such a stunning dress! I love the colours and the frog closures. The modern fabric is beautiful. Well done!

  4. aahhh! this fabric is great! I love it!

  5. Lovely dress and lovely post! This is turning into a great source of inspiration for those of us just starting out. I have that Wendy book too and I would’ve never thought to combine the pieces in the way you have!

  6. Thank you Kris! Yes, the book is great and the possibilities are definitely not limited by the 25 dresses from the book. Have fun with it!

  7. Thank you everyone for your sweet comments!

  8. WOW! This is fantastic! That is amazing that you drafted the pattern–it turned out absolutely wonderfully and the fabric is beautiful!

  9. Wonderful creation! And that fabric is divine. Well done :-)

  10. This is lovely! Fantastic work!

  11. Wow, I am officially impressed. I love how you used a non-traditional fabric for the cheongsam, it gives it such a fresh look. The dress is gorgeous, fantastic job!

  12. gorgeous fabric, fits you perfectly – and I want to watch that film now too!

  13. Lovely! Great job Adey – this fabric is stunning!

  14. This is so beautiful! And that’s one of my favourite films, if not my all time top favourite film.

  15. Thank you all!
    @Amber: Thank you so much! Using the non traditional fabric is exactly what the film inspired and what I loved about those beauties wore by lead actress Maggie Cheung:)

  16. Your sewing is so inspiring! I admire how you combined patterns and used a fabric to make the dress your very own. I end up learning a lot every time I read your post.

  17. You always amaze me. I love how you take a little of this and bit of that pattern and make something so beautiful. The dress is just beautiful and you look so good in it.

  18. This is just amazing Adey! I’ve never seen that fabric before, and to think you can just make a pattern up like that from all Built By Wendy’s designs! Love it!

  19. Beautiful, love the fabric!

  20. margueritedesigns

    I love the fabric too!

  21. Beautiful dress! What a great movie choice! I was thinking to myself throughout the movie that the main character had too many beautiful dresses!

  22. Oh, thank you so much for saying that! It makes the effort all worthwhile:)

  23. Thank you everyone!
    @emily: LOL, I thought so too but kept wanting to see what the actress would be wearing next!

  24. So beautiful! I love cheongsams (though I didn’t know they were called that until today…), I bought two very nice ones in London a couple of years ago and am very fond of wearing them. Fond enough to have bought a pattern last year, which I yet have to make. I love your unconventional take on the fabric, it makes the elegant line of the dress so much more versatile! And I’m deeply in awe that you drafted the pattern yourself!
    Also, thanks for the movie recommendation, it sounds like something I’d like to watch. ^^