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Qipao (旗袍 qípáo and pronounced roughly chee-pow) is the Mandarin Chinese name for the body-hugging, high-necked dress (sleeves optional) fashionable in the Chinese world between the 1920s and 1960s, and still popular on formal occasions to this day.

The qipao was not originally Chinese, but introduced by the Manchu invaders who established the Qing Dynasty and implemented laws that required the populace to adopt Manchu clothing and hairstyles instead of the traditional Chinese hanfu. However, since the Manchu were vassals to the former Han-led Ming Dynasty, the qipao itself had already been influenced by the clothing of the ethnic Chinese, making the qipao a bit of a recursive piece of fashion. The qipao was originally a loose-fitting outfit combining a tunic and long skirt; the high-slit, body-hugging dress with which the name is now associated was invented in Shanghai in the 1920s. The qipao was also influenced in cut and style by 1930s fashion style.


In English, the same garment is often called a cheongsam, a loan-word derived from the Cantonese pronunciation of the Shanghainese name for the dress (which is zansae), due to the large numbers of Shanghainese fleeing to Hong Kong during the communist revolution of 1949. The word cheongsam is actually gender neutral while qipao refers to a woman's dress; the male equivalent of the qipao is called changshan (长衫). Both of these are usually only worn for parties or formal events.

In popular culture, nothing spells "Chinese" like a qipao, so if a native Chinese girl or a Dragon Lady shows up in a work (especially if it's a historical piece or a movie or animated short made back when Chinese women were stereotypically depicted as seductive, but dangerous), the chances are high that she'll be wearing one. The qipao, or at least a dress cut like it, is also occasionally worn by non-Chinese characters, as its tight fit and slit up the side ramp up the sexiness of the character while still being relatively modest. Almost always used as Fanservice. However, in Real Life a significant population of Chinese disapprove of non-Chinese women wearing it unless they have specifically invited them to for a special occasion.


The "sex appeal" of the qipao has many Unfortunate Implications due to Orientalism, Yellow Peril stereotypes, ongoing racist stereotypes of Chinese people (such as hypersexualization of Chinese women) and fetishistic Culture Equals Costume use by non-Chinese people. In Japan it it known as the "China dress" and the popularity of the dress in Japanese media stems back to the Japanese occupation of China during the Second Sino-Japanese War when Chinese women still used the qipao as daily wear.

As a humorous side note, the fanservicey qipao (the ones with the diamond Cleavage Window, are so short that it shows the upper thighs, and the slit goes up to the undies) that are commonly featured in Western and Japanese media are only in use in Real Life as lingerie or prostitute wear. They are never used for formal events.

The qipao itself has developed an increasingly mixed reputation in China. While once regarded as highly fashionable and the mainstream dress for Han Chinese women, it has some under criticism over the past few decades for not accurately representing the traditional ethnic clothing of the Han people. It has given rise to the "Hanfu movement" — a subculture and cultural movement seeking to revitalize pre-Qing dynasty Han Chinese fashion. While the current Hanfu movement only dates back to the early 21st century, various "re-siniczation" movements had occurred throughout Chinese history as a way to rid the nation of "northern barbarian" influences. Even the KMT during early Republican China had attempted to bring back Ming-era hanfu for formal events, religious ceremonies, and government positions. While the Hanfu movement has nationalistic sentiments attached to it and could be described as a backlash against Manchu-derived clothing such as the qipao, others simply prefer hanfu for personal and stylistic choices. The uncomfortable tight-fit and constant sexualisation of the qipao is actually regarded as one of the reasons why many Chinese women from the mainland are now more drawn to wearing the conservative and loose-fitting hanfu.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Shenhua of Black Lagoon loves wearing these, though she's Taiwanese to be precise.
  • Liang Qi from Canaan wears these, specially a red one.
  • In the first Cardcaptor Sakura movie, Syaoran's older sisters all wear these. (And it is a way of telling the four apart, apparently.)
  • Ryoko wear one for a dinner at the restaurant in episode 3 of The Case Files of Yakushiji Ryoko.
  • Cyborg009 has Francoise wear one while working at Chang's restaurant, sparking humorous reactions from her coworkers.
  • Darker Than Black: Misaki wears one with a slit very high up the side at a party thrown by a former high school classmate. Being more used to understated outfits, she feels embarrassingly exposed in it.
  • Shiuchon (Suzie in the dub) of Digimon Tamers wears a qipao blouse.
  • A 3WA trouble consultant named Beryl in the Dirty Pair OVAs wears one.
  • Tsuruten's wife from Doctor Slump. She usually wears a cheongsam and has been seen wearing several different colors of them.
  • Chichi in Dragon Ball usually wears qipao as an adult. But she negates some of the fanservice factor by wearing them over long, baggy trousers. In Filler Android 18 raids ChiChi's wardrobe and tries on her qipaos in front of the mirror but dislikes them.
  • Kazahaya is forced to wear one as part of a school popularity/beauty contest in Drug & Drop. As Rikuo notes, no matter how much Kazahaya tries, he just can't manage to hide those long legs of his in that getup.
  • Every once in a while, Kagura from Gintama is dressed in one.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers:
  • Ikki Tousen:
    • Kakouen Myousai wears a white qipao as her battle clothes.
    • Hakufu gets to be seen in one while waitressing in a Chinese restaurant. She also wore a blue one after being awakened from her coma by Ukitsu's Heroic Sacrifice and returning to the battlefield to fight Sousou alongside Ryuubi.
  • Mun Mun (the leader of the Terrible Trio) in Time Bokan series Ippatsuman often wears this dress as a civilian outfit.
  • This is the fanservice outfit Umi dreads having to wear as an idol in Love Live!. Which is, of course, subject to Memetic Mutation like so many of their costumes. There is also a set of cards in the game with these on all nine of them.
  • Lyrical Nanoha:
    • Ixpellia has this as her most common outfit.
    • Rio Wesley also seems to have this as the base of her Barrier Jacket.
  • Wang Liu Mei is best known for wearing qipao dresses in Mobile Suit Gundam 00
  • Naruto: Sakura Haruno wears a qipao, and Tenten wears a pink qipao blouse before the timeskip in the series. In 'Road to Sakura', Hinata is made to don one as well.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi: Ku Fei and Kaede both are fond of qipao.
  • Yukina of Night Raid 1931 is shown wearing a qipao in a lot of official art. While this kind of makes sense given the series' Chinese setting, she never wears one within the actual series.
  • One Piece:
  • In Ranma ½ this is the standard fashion for Chinese amazon Shampoo, as well as worn occasionally by other characters like Akane and female!Ranma.
    • When in his male form—and occasionally when female—Ranma is almost always seen wearing a changshan.
  • R.O.D the TV:
    • Michelle wears a qipao when serving Chinese food to Nenene.
  • Rosario + Vampire
    • The girls dressing up when they're trying to get support for the new Chinese character's polygamy idea.
    • Moka also wears a white qipao in an episode of the anime's second season, in the grounds of Fanservice (as she was under a hypnotic trance).
  • The outfits of the main characters from Saint Beast are actually based off of this.
  • In Shakugan no Shana, Shana is shown wearing one in a flashback to her past. She complained that it was too impractical to fight in, but Wilhelmina told her not to make excuses, and that she's seen many warriors wear one.
  • Tao Jun, Ren's older sister, wears a qipao in Shaman King. Fitting, as they're actually from China.
  • Stratos4: The girls all wear these at their jobs as waitresses. The skirt portion is so short they barely even cover their undergarments.
  • The music video for the song "S.t.a.r.S" from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann features Ms. Fanservice Yoko Littner in various costumes. Of the two foreign ones, one is a qipao with a Cleavage Window, combined with Odango Hair.
  • In Transformers: Kiss Players, Shaoshao Li wears one a lot.
  • Sumire from The World God Only Knows wears the qipao of her escaped mother.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Vivian Wong wears a skimpy yellow qipao. So skimpy, in fact, that Mr. Digital Paint Bucket added Modesty Shorts in the English dub.

    Comic Books 
  • An old Archie comic has Veronica wearing a qipao, and getting furious when everyone comments on her "ripped dress".
  • The DC Comics villainess Roulette wears one as her signature outfit, despite being white.
  • Ninjette wears one in Empowered #4, at the Capeys Awards.
    • this is particularly jarring in that she usually dresses in either Western style clothing or her McNinja costume.
  • Les Innommables: Alix frequently wears a qipao, and so do the prostitutes at the Purple Lotus.
  • While Lady Shiva changes her outfits constantly she most often wears a long black coat that's styled after a qipao at the neck and clasps and has a richly colored and patterned silk lining. In her original appearances she mostly donned her jacket to dramatically toss it before entering a fight but these days she usually just keeps it on.
  • In W.I.T.C.H. and its animated adaptation Hay Lin's Guardian outfit is modeled on the qipao.
    • In her Guardian form, Hay Lin's grandmother Yan Lin (who, differently from Hay Lin, was actually born in China and lived there for a while) wears a similar-looking tangzhuang (fashionable for both genders).
    • Averted with the ancient human generation of Guardians, who, while Chinese, wear the hanfu. Justified as they lived millennia before the qipao was even invented.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Some of the outfits Mulan wore in the Direct to Video film Mulan II resemble this. Other times, she would be either wearing the training uniform and/or her battle armor or various types of hanfu dresses.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 2046 also by Wong Kar-wai is pretty much just the main character reminiscing with how great Maggie Cheung looked in her qipao, complete with long lingering shots of her standing in halls and walking in slow motion.
  • Blade Runner 2049: One of Joi's outfits, a romantic AI, is a colorful cheongsam—the world of Blade Runner was already established as a multicultural hodgepodge with certain Asian influences.
  • The two Chinese women who show up at the party in Breakfast at Tiffany's wear qipao. Another guest tells one of them "Hey, honey, your skirt's split there."
  • In Brick, the Femme Fatale Laura Dannon wears a rather striking red one in an early party scene.
  • Many characters in Flower Drum Song since it's set in San Francisco's Chinatown circa The '50s, and the characters are either Chinese immigrants or children of Chinese immigrants. Mei Li is planning to wear one for a party, but she's given a western evening gown instead (some of the guests are Chinese-Americans wearing them too).
  • Cho Chang wore a qipao-style dress at the Yule Ball in the film version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The book didn't state what she was wearing; just that everyone had to wear 'dress robes'.
  • The title character of House of Harmony (played by Maggie Q) wears a qipao as a matter of course, except on one occasion, when she put on a Western-style dress in an unsuccessful attempt to blend in.
  • Indecent Proposal. Gage provides Diana with one for their evening together.
  • Willie wears a qipao influenced dress in the opening scene of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom while performing "Anything Goes" in Mandarin.
  • Maggie Cheung in In the Mood for Love. Not only is she wearing a qipao in every single scene, it's always a different one.
  • James Bond: In Dr. No, Ursula Andress and Zena Marshall are both seen wearing qipao.
  • In The Karate Kid (2010) remake, Dre's mother dons a qipao on the occasion the Qixi festival.
  • In Kill Bill, Sofie Fatale wears a garment resembling a qipao, but it is actually much closer to the man's changshan. This may have been deliberate to suggest that she's a lesbian.
  • In Lust, Caution, Wong Chia-chi wears a qipao as part of her bored upper-class woman persona. In one scene, she goes to the tailor in the company of Mr. Yee to have a new one fitted, but it turns out to be slightly too tight. The result does not leave Mr. Yee indifferent.
  • In So I Married an Axe Murderer Nancy Travis wears a red qipao to a dinner on her honeymoon night with Mike Myers.
  • Mary-Jane Watson wears a qipao during a social occasion in the film version of Spider-Man, confusing a great deal of the audience. The juxtaposition is explained somewhat by the fact she wears it at a "World Unity Fair."
  • Nancy Kwan famously wore one in The World of Suzie Wong.

  • The protagonists of Shanghai Girls, being fashion-conscious upper-class young women, make a big deal of wearing qipao in the latest styles.
  • The Stormlight Archive: Since most of the world is based very roughly on Asian cultures, it is no surprise that something like a qipao shows up. The havah is a Vorin dress with long sleeves and a skirt, but it is designed to be form-fitting in the chest area. Most other nations dismiss it as prudish, but Shallan catches the sailors sneaking glances at Jasnah in her dress.
  • In one of the Sabrina the Teenage Witch novelizations, Sabrina is taken to an Other Realm tailor for a potential prom dress. One of the options is a qipao, with a dragon who actually comes to life on the design.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Anna Wu wore this in an episode of Chuck, to impress her very traditional parents.
  • In How I Met Your Mother episode "Slapsgiving III...", during the segment "The Cruel Tutelage of 'Red Bird'", Robin (Cobie Smulders) wears a tight form-fitting dress with a Chinese design.
  • Mele in Juken Sentai Gekiranger wears a green one (aptly, as she's effectively a chameleon monster in human form).
  • In The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode "The Hong Kong Shilling Affair", Heavenly Cortelle wears a qipao.
  • In Pushing Daisies, Chuck's "aunt" Vivian often wears elegant qipao. Also both Chuck and Olive wear them (along with the Victim of the Week, as well as background characters) in the Chinatown episode.
  • Routinely worn by several of the characters of Serangoon Road, which is set in Singapore in the mid-1960s.

  • One of the many outfits that Minori Chihara wears in the Self Producer music video.

    Video Games 
  • Marilyn Sue from Akatsuki Blitzkampf fights in a gold qipao with very high slits running up either side. This doesn't pose much of a problem for her during fights, since her style emphasises powerful jabs, chops and palm strikes over kicks.
  • Occasionally on winning, Mei-Fang in Arcana Heart changes costume into a Qipao.
  • One of the alternate costumes for Bayonetta in the sequel, available in blue, white, and red.
  • Litchi Faye-Ling from BlazBlue wears a highly Fanservice-riffic version. How? It shows a lot of her curvy legs from the front, and it features Absolute Cleavage, displaying her big boobies. Sweet.
  • One of Morrigan Aensland's favorite Victory Pose outfits in the Darkstalkers series.
  • One of Lei-Fang's costumes in Dead or Alive. Very iconic of the series since almost every attack she does while in it guarantees a Panty Shot.
  • Maggie Chow in Deus Ex wears one to go with her Dragon Lady character.
  • Fumi in Devil Survivor 2 wears a cheongsam under her JP's longcoat.
  • Part of the 'official' uniform for female Monks in Dragon Quest IX.
  • Shadow Yamato in the Sega CD version of Eternal Champions and its spinoff, X-Perts. She's a Ninja, by the way.
  • Vera's dress from Fallout: New Vegas: Dead Money looks like this, minus the high neck. Bonus points if an Asian Courier is wearing it.
  • Final Fantasy V: Lenna wears one when she becomes the Monk class. Female monks in some other games followed suit. Examples include Ursula from Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, and all three female characters in Final Fantasy Dimensions when they are in the Monk class.
    • in Final Fantasy VII Remake Tifa will wear one to the Wall Market if you tell her to wear something sporty, and will even get to do some of her martial arts in it when fighting off Corneo's goons for good measure.
  • Guild Wars: Female mesmer clothing in factions.
  • In the 2016 Lunar Festivities' celebration on Heroes of the Storm, Jaina Proudmoore gets a 'Lunar Jaina' skin, where she wears one.
  • Mei Ying, the female lead in Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb wears a pink qipao for much of the third and fourth sections of the game.
  • Lilly Satou dresses up in one of these on her first date with Hisao in her route in Katawa Shoujo.
  • In Lost Horizon, Kim wears the shorter, shirt-like version over trousers. (The freedom of movement is probably useful when kicking people.) Other women seen in Hong Kong have fuller versions.
  • An outfit for the thief class for females in MapleStory.
  • Xiaomu in Namco × Capcom, Endless Frontier and Project X Zone wears one with a conveniently-placed zipper for either conservative or fanservice purposes.
  • In the 2017 Lunar Year on Overwatch, Symmetra (an Indian) got a recolor of her skin that made her look like wearing a red Qipao. The resident Chinese girl, Mei, got something else fancier.
  • Flare and Rayea in Panel de Pon.
  • In Perfect Dark, Joanna Dark dons a qipao with a red dragon print in preparation for a formal event, as seen here (spoilers).
  • The "China Dress" is a costume in Phantasy Star Online 2. There's also a shorter variation.
  • In Resident Evil 4, Ada Wong fights zombies in an incredibly tight qipao. One wonders how she manages to walk without falling in it, let alone pull some of the stunts she does.
  • Li Kohran, the Chinese girl of Sakura Wars, is often seen wearing one.
  • Shenmue 2: Xiuying Hong.
  • Lunar Blaze, a special version of Blaze that can be unlocked during the 2019 Blazing Lunar New Year event in Sonic Forces: Speed Battle, wears a red one.
  • Chun Li in Street Fighter II wears a modified version. Among the differences to the traditional kind are short, puffy sleeves, a white obi-like sash lining the waist, and one huge slit on each side (instead of a single slit over one of the legs, making the skirt look more like a cloth on the front and a tail on the back), which allows for more freedom of movement and kicking (and not coincidentally shows off her muscular thighs).
  • In Syd of Valis, a "Chinese Dress" with a Cleavage Window is Yuko's first costume upgrade.
  • Anna Williams in Tekken. Oddly Xiaoyu, the actual Chinese Girl of the game, largely eschews ethnic dress, mostly favoring athletic wear instead until 5 when she wears it as her default costume.
  • Hong Meiling of the Touhou Project series is also depicted in fanart as wearing one, though in the original ZUN art, she wears a cheongsam with a pair of pants.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • As in the DC Comics, Justice League Unlimited depicts Roulette's standard costume as a qipao.
  • Wing, the real life Chinese songstress appearing on the eponymous episode of South Park wears a red qipao.
  • The Venture Bros. — Dr. Girlfriend wears one to pick up an on-the-prowl Rusty as part of a scheme of the Monarch's.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: Subverted. Marinette's mother, Sabine, wears a white cheongsam with pants as her everyday wear, but it's not sexualized in any way and is simply considered what she wears.

Alternative Title(s): Chinese Dress, Cheongsam


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