Chinese communities around the globe will soon celebrate the turn of the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar, and welcome in the Year of the Fire Rooster once more. Known as Chinese New Year or Spring Festival, celebrations start on the eve of CNY and culminate with the Lantern Festival on the fifteenth day of the following month. Living in Singapore, the playlist in a supermarket is as good as indicator as any that the lunar festival is upon us - literally from January 1st onwards (maybe even Boxing Day), the Christmas crooners are repetitively replaced by the tinkling chimes of Gong Xi, Gong Xi, the aisles are stocked full of abalone, pineapple cookies, lanterns decorate the ceilings and are of course up for sale, old Aunties sniff and inspect fancily packaged boxes or oranges and tangerines and pussy willow blooms in an array of vibrants pinks and reds line the floral stands.
Being born into the year of the Rabbit (wood being my specific element), I read with interest the predictions that are currently on display in our local mall. Given that my horoscope barometer is definitely in the lower Russell Grant gear - who I fondly recall dishing out astrological advice to me, a Cancer/Leo cusper, on Selina Scott's BBC breakfast sofa in my childhood - the frankness at which the asian zodiac advice was dolled out left me a little bit agog.
No softly approach with Chinese crystal gazing - be it about financial prosperity (or not!), whether or not this was a good year to start a family (pleased that I've already checked that one), how relationships with other animal signs would fair over the next year, down to how to feng shui certain rooms in your home. Yet, the one that got me smiling the most was that this is the year the stars tell me to get my teeth whitened. As I've been secretly yearning to do this for a long while, I am pleased to now have the astrological approval I've been waiting for. Watch out for my gleaming Hollywood white smile...
When there’s a good reason to celebrate, there’s always the need for a great outfit - especially for CNY. The traditional Chinese dress is called a Cheongsam or Qipao (pronounced chipao) - the narrow, side-closing sheath was made fashionable in the 1920’s by socialites and upper class women in Shanghai.
The Orient has been a source of inspiration for designers for as long as history has recorded fashion and the shape of the cheongsam has popped up on catwalks and enjoyed fashion reprisals or westernised variants from time to time. The 1960’s film ‘The World of Suzie Wong’, based on Richard Mason’s book starring Nancy Kwan, resulted in a rise of popularity for qipao style dresses - known then as ‘Suzie Wong’ dresses in the West. Tom Ford cited Maggie Cheung’s colourful cheongsams worn in the film, ‘In the Mood for Love’ (2000, by Wong Kar Wai) as a great source of inspiration for a yellow silk satin sequinned dress he created for his final season at Yves Saint Laurent in 2004. New York's Met show in 2015 (and their Gala ball, the annual party organised by Anna Wintour, where celebs vie for a ticket then get picked over by the fashion press for what they wore) looked back over China's influence on fashion in the costume exhibition 'China: Through the Looking Glass'.
Today, designers such as Ong Shunmugam’s modern, fresh interpretation of such this traditional style of dress keep it contemporary and wearable. I especially love her sets, with cropped tops and three-quarter length pants or skirts. The bold floral prints have an elegant 50’s Miami housewife appeal and her high neck cut-out dresses are bang up to date - demure with a hint of sexiness. These outfits can be styled for any occasion in the year’s calendar and are not restricted to CNY.
For the purposes of this Mood-Board, I’m opting for a highly worked Qipao by Shanghai Tang. The hefty price-tags - over eight thousand singapore dollars - reflects the heavily embellished nature of the dress and the fact that only ten pieces have been made. It’s inspiration might be ‘saddler Mongolian tapestry’ but with it’s short length, long zipped back and fine bead-work it is modern, imbues both rock star and red carpet elegance in one, sexy dress. Pair it with these Balenciaga sequin embellished satin pumps, a pair of fifites-chic Ben-Amun crystal earrings and the Elyse & i Iris Minaudière in metallic and you have one killer outfit to see in, and rule the roost this Chinese New Year.
SHOP THE LOOK:
1. Shanghai Tang Overall Beads Qipao - shanghaitang.com
2. Ben Amun Crystal Earrings - shopbop.com3. Elyse & i Iris Minaudiere bag in Metallic nappa with laser cut acrylic pattern - find it at Tangs, Tang Plaza, Orchard Road, SG, Level 2 or shop it here online
4. Balenciaga Sequin Embellished Satin Pumps - netaporter.com