Dressing up for Love: The Fashion Magic of Qipao


By Kazarina Liao

The film In the Mood For Love is a classic film by Wang Kar Wei. It’s about two next-door neighbors, Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan, who find out their spouses have been seeing each other. Mrs. Chan wonders how their spouses’ affair begins so Chow and Chan re-enact. While Chow and Chan interact, they slowly develop feelings toward each other. The story is a little unusual but the Qipao that Meggie Cheung (as Mrs. Chan in the film) wears is even more poetic. 

Qipao as known as Cheongsam is a traditional Chinese that is fitted with high slits on the sides, complete with Chinese frog fasteners on the collar and lapel. This dress was all the rage in 1920s Shanghai and was worn by high-society women. It was also influential capital that many countries in Asia such as Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong took the idea of the Qipao and modified them. Qipao nowadays is not only a marker of Chinese identity and roots but also a fashion statement. 

Now, let’s talk about the color symbolism in this film. Red is a classic symbol of love and passion, which is why it’s no surprise that Mrs. Chan is seen wearing a gorgeous red and pink Qipao when she’s waiting for her neighbors to leave the lobby so she can return to her own room. 

Another example is the red Qipao with very rose patterns when it looks from far away. We can even see a little bit of Chan’s upper body with the chiffon material. Sadly, this Qipao can only be seen in the director’s cut. Red became a symbol of their strong desire for love. 

Green, on the other hand, represents Mrs. Chan’s feelings of jealousy and romance as she found out about her husband’s affair with another woman. Moreover, the complicated flower qipao worn when Mrs. Chan and Mr. Chow meet, the patterns of the qipao contain the color green again, representing jealousy after she confirms her husband’s affair and met up with Mr. Chow. The color purple and complicated floral patterns represent the mystery and complicated feeling she has toward Mr. Chow.

The most significant and memorable scene (at least for me) where Mrs. Chan and Mr.Chow passing by each other and the narrow stairs while Mrs. Chan is going to the noodle stand,  this happens at the beginning of the film when their love has not developed yet. Chan is wearing gray and dotted patterns Qipao. It indicates her loneliness and sorrow as her husband is almost never home. The dots on her Qipao even matches the raindrops that fall down on her!

But the fashion magic doesn’t just stop at the Qipaos. Wong Kar-Wai is a master of making the scenes complement Mrs. Chan’s outfits. For example, her daffodil print dress stands out beautifully among the green leaves and floral motifs, while the muted colors and simple patterns blend perfectly with the dim lighting of the locations. Overall, Mrs. Chan’s wardrobe in “In the Mood for Love” elevates the film to a new level of style and elegance. Each outfit is carefully selected and thoughtfully placed, adding an extra layer of depth and emotion to the already rich story. 



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here