Chinese families used to display their wealth by having the bride change her outfit multiple times throughout the wedding day. Today, Chinese brides wear at least two, if not three or four outfits throughout the wedding day.
Most Chinese brides wear a Western white dress for the ceremony and change into a Chinese dress for the reception. The most common style is a cheongsam, or qipao, which is a form fitting one piece dress that is typically made of red silk. Brides may change back into their white dress for dancing, cake-cutting etc. or stay in their qipao. Some brides like to change into shorter white evening dresses in order to move more freely during the reception.
We encourage brides to wear a cute outfit while getting their hair and makeup done. It can be tempting to dress casually since you’ll be dressed up the entire day, but many photos are taken of the festivities leading up to the wedding. So unless you want a third of your photos to feature yoga pants, you should dress with photography in mind. If you will dress nicely, you might as well suggest the same to your bridesmaids so you complement each other.
It can be a challenge to find a nice qipao outside of China. The qipaos typically sold in Chinatown for $20 are cheaply made and look like Halloween costumes, or worse–waitress uniforms. Fortunately, there are shops in major cities and a few great online retailers. The secret to a beautiful qipao is that it must be made of nice material and fit like a glove. It was harder for us to find our qipaos than it was for our ceremony dresses, so we’d like to share our experience with you.
Amy’s bachelorette party took place in New York City, so she also used that opportunity to shop for a qipao in Chinatown. She wanted a high quality silk qipao that was very traditional. She started at a store called Peony Red, which sells qipaos for about $200-300. While the dresses were beautiful, they had too many sequins and beads for her taste. Next, we went to a store called Wedding Hills that was attached to a Sheraton. They only had about seven dresses in stock and none were quite right. Finally, she found a qipao at a shop called New Age Designer, which sells both premade qipaos and custom qipaos. Premade qipaos sell for about $400 and custom ones sell for about $500-600.
Christine started her search intending to purchase a very simple and traditional qipao. Her only request was that it be a darker red than most of the qipaos sold in the stores. She ordered her first dress from ebay, but it was cheap looking. She ordered a second dress from Alibaba (the Chinese ebay), but it was too baggy. She attempted to return it, but Alibaba has a policy of not accepting returns if you confirm that you have received the package. The vendor, who had been so responsive during the purchase, didn’t reply to any of her emails about a return. She was stuck with two dresses that she hated and still didn’t have a dress.
Christine didn’t want to spend $400 on a qipao so she went online and found a website called cozyladywear.com, which had gorgeous and unique qipaos. She changed her mind about the traditional qipao and opted for a mermaid cut dress that was covered with gold sequin flowers. For an additional $10, she could have the qipao custom made to her measurements, so of course she chose this option. It was a bit scary sending in her measurements because she wouldn’t be able to return it, but much to her relief, the dress fit beautifully.
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