Ask the Yangxifu: Western Women Can't Wear Qipaos? | Speaking of China

27 Responses

  1. Brittany
    Brittany October 22, 2010 at 4:06 am | | Reply

    I am totally with you on this one! I would think that Chinese would be flattered that we adore their fashion so much that we want to try it out for ourselves. Fashion truly is global — plenty of Western designers have Asian-influenced lines, just as many Asian designers have foreign influences in some of theirs!
    I have two qipaos — one red and one black — bought in China and I absolutely love them (and of course I have intentions to eventually buy even more — green, blue, purple…!). I do feel that they are a bit fancy for normal occasions, so I reserve them for special occasions like Chinese New Year, the opera, etc., and tho I sometimes worry that Chinese girls might judge me for donning a qipao (and that my hips are far too big to actually look nice in one), I say seize the trend and if you love it, wear it!

  2. friend
    friend October 22, 2010 at 7:09 pm | | Reply

    Oh, don’t worry too much about the hips, because I’ve myself have been seeing quite a few big Chinese women wearing them as well. Plus, there are men out there that love that full figure.

  3. Xiaoheng
    Xiaoheng October 22, 2010 at 10:24 pm | | Reply

    I think western women can wear qipao, it is a freedom to do that. If you like it, you wear it, if you dont like it, just leave it there. But as a Chinese mam, i think no matter a western woman or a chinese woman, who wear a qipao, it often shows the elegance and beauty. I totally support western women wear qipao, when they wear it, sometimes, they look really different than chinese ladies.

  4. Yasmin
    Yasmin October 22, 2010 at 11:08 pm | | Reply

    I love Chinese/Asian fashion. Unfortuately, I can’t fit into most of their clothes (curse these curves)! When I visited a silk factory in China recently, I think I must have tried on the largest size there and it still didn’t fit properly! What a shame…

    If I could, I would certainly wear a qipao. I wouldn’t worry about what people think – just do what you feel comfortable with (and if it fits of course). =)

  5. Jessica
    Jessica October 22, 2010 at 11:27 pm | | Reply

    I only have one qipao, my wedding qipao. I do like qipao, but my everyday style is more casual and qipao aren’t really practical with 2 kids underfoot!

    I do have some traditionally Asian/Chinese clothing that I wear regularly though, like my Dai minority wrap skirts. I have 3 of them and wear them all the time. I get reactions from students in Beijing sometimes who think it is weird to see those fashions outside of a Yunnanese restaraunt, but actual Dai women wear them everyday, they’re beautiful and comfortable, so who cares what my students think. They, quite frankly, turn their noses up at clothing unless the label is foreign or the pricetag is in the triple digits so I don’t really expect most of them to be too impressed by traditional clothes.

    I do somewhat get the argument about Westerners co-opting Eastern styles, and the concern that there are hints of Orientalism in the likes of Paris Hilton wanting to rock an “exotic” qipao, but I don’t think that most of the reactions from Chinese people (in China) to Western women wearing qipao really run that deep. I think they are mostly surprised you’d want to wear something old fashioned and they may find the sight of a Western woman in a qipao a bit incongruous, but I don’t think they’re sitting their thinking “damn cultural imperialists, isn’t it enough that they’ve got everyone here wishing they were blonde, now they have to take over our own fashions too?! Is nothing sacred?!” Unless maybe you run in certain academic circles. 😉

    If you like qipaos or fisherman pants or wrap skirts or embroidered shirts, then wear them. If anyone says anything just tell them the truth, that you find Asian style beautiful and elegant and you don’t see what’s so great about blue jeans anyhow.

  6. Anna Hammer
    Anna Hammer October 23, 2010 at 5:49 am | | Reply

    I am originally from the Philippines, but grew up in the US. Unfortunately I haven’t been thin since I was about 10 years old. The women in my family aren’t very slim either. When I see the thin Chinese girls, I realize that we (my relatives and I) have never been/can never be that thin. When I visited China and tried on the traditional clothes, they were too small for me! So I ended up not buying anything. I think Chinese women have the “skinny genes” and most Filipinas don’t!

  7. Luna
    Luna October 23, 2010 at 7:39 am | | Reply

    Aw, thanks, this all is really reassuring. Maybe I’ve just come in contact with the wrong people so far, but the reactions I got in the past for me wearing eastern clothes were mostly negative. In a forum for Asian guys and non-asian girls, one Chinese guy even went on a total rage trip against western girls wearing traditional Chinese clothes, saying, that they are too curvy for it and their skin type doesn’t suit them and such. But if guys like that really are the minority, I’m relieved. I guess such personal opinions shouldn’t really bother me, when I really want to wear what I like.
    Like Yasmin, I’m also curvy though, that makes it hard for me to find Asian style clothes, that really fit me. But with enough patience in the search, I’ve always been able to find something good so far. My qipao is purple and looks really beautiful to me, but unfortunately I have no picture of it. 🙁

  8. Mish
    Mish October 23, 2010 at 7:46 pm | | Reply

    Frankly whenever I see women slopping around town wearing some “traditional asian clothing” it just makes me sad. Too often it is one of those weebo girls who are BEYOND creepily obsessed with Asian pop culture, wearing something horribly cheap-looking they found on a table in Chinatown.
    If a woman wants to wear beautiful traditional clothing, it needs to be done properly no matter what her race or body type. Those outfits (usually) are for special occasions, not doing errands or going to school.

  9. ts
    ts October 23, 2010 at 8:40 pm | | Reply

    First of all, qipaos are NOT traditional Chinese dresses. They are modern dresses derived from Manchurian clothing. The truly traditional clothing worn by Han Chinese is the hanfu, which was worn for thousands of years preceding the Manchu Qing dynasty. The hanfu is suitable for all figure types and is graceful, elegant and classical in appearance and visual appeal. Hopefully, the groups of Chinese who are trying to revive the hanfu will succeed in their endeavors.

  10. China Shark Mike
    China Shark Mike October 26, 2010 at 10:04 am | | Reply

    If you like it the hell with what others think. Just like previous posters stated that Chinese people do have a lot of respect foreigners who show interest in thier culture.

  11. Ellen
    Ellen January 21, 2011 at 11:19 am | | Reply

    This is very reassuring, I’ve been looking at a qipao as a prom dress but I hesitated because my area of the world has a steadily growing Chinese population and I didn’t want to offend anyone. Good to know they won’t totally flip out.

    RE hanfu: Hanfu are incredibly gorgeous, I agree, I’ve always thought they looked brilliant, I may hunt around for one instead of a qipao, depends on funds and prices.

  12. Henry Yeh
    Henry Yeh January 21, 2011 at 12:57 pm | | Reply

    Jakvn Gvsa aibide bini?
    Qipao might not be “traditional” in the strictest sense, it’s nevertheless definitively Chinese in origin.

  13. Anna
    Anna March 31, 2015 at 4:34 am | | Reply

    Thanks so much for this!
    I have just bought a qipao style dress for my Leaver’s Ball in June but was suddenly terrified of offending people. I love Asian culture and history (although I am no expert) and I really loved that style of dress.

    I really hope I won’t be accused of cultural appropriation, I think I would die of shame.

  14. Jean
    Jean August 26, 2015 at 4:14 am | | Reply

    Uh, as an american born chinese, I completely see this as white cultural appropriation. Its cool to see folks incorporate asian influences into their attire, but to wear something completely chinese is a bit much for me.

    I see it as another micro aggression. here we go again with white people stepping into other people’s culture whenever they please, when ever its cool or hip, and then they can step back into their dominant white culture, again whenever they please. I can’t stop being culturally chinese. I can’t choose to just be white. Despite being born in america, i can choose tap into my american culture and later tap into my chinese culture. but here in the states, there is a stark difference between being american and white.

    perhaps this article on dreadlocks can shed a little more light:


    1. Cindy
      Cindy January 24, 2017 at 1:25 pm | | Reply

      It’s too bad you feel that way. As a 61 year old American female I have watched many styles come and go. Trends. Fashion. I can remember having a very nice (and expensive) shirt from India and also qipao style shirt when I was very young. I do not keep up with the trends, I never was much with that but I have always worn what I liked to wear. What I thought was pretty. Is there something wrong with that?
      I serve the Chinese community in my American town. I have helped with English as a Second Language classes at the Chinese church and I participate in the Chinese New Year festival and THEY WANT ME TO wear traditional Chinese clothing when I sing and play my guitar. I think it’s a little racist to think that I am trying to be Chinese or that I am ?stepping on other people’s culture?. I love the Chinese community here and am happy to be a part.
      By the way, I find it offensive that you call some people “white”. A piece of paper is white. People are shades of tan, to brown to black. And I bed that you are actually “whiter” than me. There is only one race – human. These so-called races are actually family groups.

  15. Yi
    Yi January 11, 2016 at 12:26 am | | Reply

    I think that it’s nice to know that western women appreciate the eastern culture, and personally, I think it’s fine for a woman of any nationality to wear a qipao. Just please avoid the mix and match of all the asian countries, because that will just be viewed as racist.

  16. K
    K June 9, 2016 at 8:29 pm | | Reply

    What can I say? i agree with: ‘you like it? Wear it!’
    Apparently, some 3 years back, the traditional romanian blouse for women (ukraine and russia has similar ones) started to be worn by women here.. last year this type of blouse made its way onto the best known fashion shows, under well known designer names.
    The summer didn’t fully start [the spring was incredibly cold and rainy], but women are already wearing them.
    The problem? nobody wears the whole traditional outfit … not on a daily basis, with a few tiny exceptions. should American or Asian women be banned from wearing these blouses? No.. if anything, they might be curious about the inspiration and learn more about the East European culture.. and that’s a good thing.

  17. Calvin Nam
    Calvin Nam October 14, 2016 at 4:48 pm | | Reply

    Qipao is over-rated.. Hanfu is more elegant and beautiful..
    I like to see white women wearing Hanfu… and I’m asian..

  18. Jessica
    Jessica July 13, 2017 at 9:51 am | | Reply

    I totally agree! Western women can often rock Asian clothes better than Asian women because they have taller and prettier bodies. If Asian clothes were designed to fit Western women, they’d definitely be more popular. Plus when you mix Asian clothing with Western features, the overall look is far more stunning and delicate! Trust me, as a fashion lover, Western women were made to rule Asian culture!

  19. Kennedy
    Kennedy February 4, 2018 at 4:49 pm | | Reply

    Thanks so much for this piece! My step sad and his side of the family are of Eastern descent and I’ve had this burning question in my mind on whether it was offensive for someone NOT of his descent to wear such things. My Little sister is a mix of my step dad and mom (mom being white) and my step dad wants to take us all to China one day to show us his culture.

    It honestly would be such an honor for me to wear the sorts of things you mentioned and a truly heart-warming experience for me as it’s very close to my heart. This culture is part of my family and I’m not here to shun or disrespect it, I’m here to embrace it and love it to bits. I find the traditional clothing absolutely gorgeous.

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