Wearing a bit of history

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2011, 12:00am

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The cheongsam is a legendary fashion article, which highlights the feminine physique of its wearer.

Several schools have adopted the cheongsam as their uniform.

Originally, the cheongsam was the male version of a traditional clothing item that the Manchus popularised throughout the rest of China during the Qing Dynasty.

The female version is called the qipao, but Westerners got the words mixed up. That's why we call women's dress cheongsam today.

Cheongsams as uniforms

Many missionary schools around mid-20th century began using cheongsams as their uniforms. The traditional dress symbolised refinement and good behaviour.

Today the cheongsam still serves as the uniform in many elite girls' schools, such as True Light Middle School. It was the first secondary school in Hong Kong to adopt the cheongsam as a uniform. Ying Wa Girls' School, St Stephen's Girls' College and Heep Yunn School also use cheongsams.

At a glance, the uniforms from these schools look very similar. But there are ways to tell the difference. First, their colours vary from the palest shade of blue to sky-blue. Second, the uniforms' collars are different. Some are lined by dark blue or purple cotton while other uniforms have no lining.

Another sign is metal school badges. They range from a blue-and-white cross and a silver shield to the school's name in Chinese.

What do students think about their uniforms?

Most girls have become used to wearing the cheongsam, though they think it's not easy to walk around in because of its body-hugging design. Also, it is hard to run or sit on the floor without the risk of popping open buttons or splitting the sides.

Some Form One students need some practice in wearing their school uniforms. It takes them time to learn how to do all the buttons on the side and fasten the collar button, which can easily become unhooked or damaged. Some girls also find cheongsams reveal a bit too much of their body shape so they have a strong incentive to keep fit. The uniform, which covers the whole body and is made of thick fabric, can be tough to wear in the summer, others say.

However, many students appreciate the traditional look and elegant design of the cheongsam.

A lot of boys, too, appreciate cheongsam uniforms. They think the dresses are beautiful and elegant, in a traditional way.

How to move and function in a cheongsam uniform

Some tips and tricks:

Q How should you run in a cheongsam?

A Hike up the skirt a little so that it hits right above the kneecaps. Then your legs will be free and you can run for your life.

Q How do you stretch without popping open buttons?

A Stretch in one direction. Don't stretch your arms upwards and bend your body backwards.

Q How do you sit in a cheongsam on the floor?

A First, smooth your cheongsam until the skirt is straight.

There are two safe ways to sit. One is to sit with your legs tucked on the side. Make sure you sit firmly on the back of the skirt and that your legs are not stretched too far.

The second way is to sit with your legs stretched towards the front. Stretch the front flap of the skirt as far back as you can so that it almost merges with the back flap and covers up the split. Then you can sit down without any worries about making a mess of your dress.