SEWN: 1950’s style Blue Floral Cheongsam (Simplicity 8244)

If there’s one type of dress that I need more of in my wardrobe, it has to be cheongsams. Also known as qipaos, cheongsams are traditional Chinese dresses that were once the national dress of Republic of China in the 1920s.

I have a couple of cheongsams custom-made during my vacation in Shanghai many years back (like this one), but I have always wanted to make one myself. It’s always better when you make it yourself, isn’t it? When I came across the Simplicity 8244, which is a reproduction of a 1950’s vintage cheongsam pattern (Simplicity 1018), I knew it is the perfect pattern for me to begin my cheongsam-making journey.

What I love

There are so many things that I love about this pattern. The kimono sleeves offer more freedom in movement and the illusion of a fuller bust, while the double waist darts provide the illusion of a slimmer waist. More importantly, the design options offered me the chance to give the pattern a go without the pressure of failing in perfecting the mandarin collar and the placement of the frog closures!

To be honest, I really enjoyed every part of the process in making this dress. The bias tape finishing is such a nice touch and I loved the meditative act of hand sewing it on.

What I loathe

If I must say, the trickiest part of the pattern would be sewing the side vents. I struggled with understanding the instructions when reading it at first but figured it all out at the end. My experience in sewing the vent for my Christmas Kitty pencil skirt definitely helped.

Also, I made a boo-boo when cutting the back and front of the dress. I cut the fold line of both front and back pieces by accident and ended up having to mend the cut with some interface and zig-zag stitches. The thread and fabric matched up so well, it’s hard to see it from far. It’s not perfect but I am okay with it. Really, can you even see it from far?

 The fabric and other notions

This navy floral polycotton has been sitting in my stash for many years. I bought them from Spotlight while I was still living in Sydney. That means that it has been sitting in my stash for at least 5 years. FIVE LONG YEARS. I definitely did not think that I would make a cheongsam when I bought this fabric, but this fabric stood out amongst everything else I have in my stash. I knew it would look outstanding with red bias tape as a contrasting design point.

To make sure that I have the exact same red for the buttons, I made self-covered buttons using the bias tape.

The fit

While the pattern did not state the kind of fit that the final dress gives, I found the ease in the bust to be a lot more generous than the ease in the waist. Being petite and having a modest 32″ bust with my best bra, I ended up taking in an extra 1cm on each side of the side seams for the top half of the dress (i.e. bust/bodice) after sewing everything up. This is despite grading down from size 6 to size 4 in the pattern before cutting into the fabric!

And of course, as usual, I modified the length of the dress for my height. I am 5’2″ (157cm) and I can safely say that ALL Big 4 patterns require modifications in length for my height.

Zig-zag machine mend on the centre back. You can also still see my fabric chalk marking on the fabric. Oopsey!

Take a close look and spot the zig-zag mending on centre front

Absolutely love the bias tape finishing!

The side vent

The future

What do you think about the dress? I definitely have plans to make a version with the mandarin collar and frog closures. True to my history of fabric pattern obsession, I have about a yard or so of this SAME design but in white, and I am wondering if I should make a cheongsam top with it, or sell it in my efforts to destash and simplify.


At a glance…

Pattern: Simplicity 8244, view B
Fabric: Navy floral from Spotlight
Size made: Graded from size 6 to size 4
Modifications: Took in additional 1 cm on each side of upper body (i.e. upwards from waist), shortened the length

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In the Mood for Love 1960s style cheongsam

A couple of weeks ago I took my man out to the Fullerton Hotel for a birthday buffet dinner. It was the perfect opportunity for me to bust out this tailor-made cheongsam that I made in Shanghai a few years ago. I am ashamed to say that this is only my second time wearing this cheongsam! The last time I wore this was a year ago…

In the Mood for Love 1960s style cheongsam

In the Mood for Love 1960s style cheongsam

The cheongsam is probably the oriental version of the LBD, in my opinion. It’s a great piece to have in anyone’s wardrobe. A tailor-made cheongsam accentuates your curves and adds instant glamour to your look. Also, it’s great for creating vintage-inspired looks! Some of my favourite inspirations are the long and slender looks of Shanghainese ladies from the 1920s – 1930s, as well as the stiff high-collar design of 1960s cheongsams like the ones in “In the Mood for Love”.

Mid-century cheongsams


1930s Shanghainese cheongsams


I paired my cream floral cheongsam with bright pink satin chunky heels and a vintage beaded bag for a vintage inspired look. I wanted a 1960’s look, so I wore my mid-century cluster clip-on earrings.

1960s vintage inspired cheongsam

1960s vintage inspired cheongsam

I have 2 other cheongsams in my wardrobe, of which one has never been worn. SHOCKER! I should wear it soon…

How about you? For those people who own cheongsam(s), when was the last time you wore a cheongsam? For those people who don’t own a cheongsam (yet), do you fancy a cheongsam in your wardrobe?

(Note: The pictures of the 1930s and 1960s cheongsams are from Pinterest. Unfortunately, none of the links for the images worked, so I apologise for not including the original sources.)