The Student News Site of Los Osos High School

The Grizzly Gazette

The Grizzly Gazette

The Grizzly Gazette

Beyond the Silk

The qipao, a traditional Chinese dress, has a rich history dating back to as far as the Qing Dynasty. The earlier version of the qipao highlighted a loose and conservative design that covered the entire body. It was often paired with a jacket or coat and worn by women of all social classes. 

The qipao underwent a significant transformation in the 1920s in which fashion designers and tailors in Shanghai adapted the traditional design to create a more form-fitting and modern silhouette. 

This new style featured a high, close-fitting collar, form-fitting silhouette, and an additional side slit that allowed for greater ease of movement. The qipao is a symbol of elegance, grace, and traditional Chinese values. It showcases the modesty and graceful beauty of the qipao. It is no surprise it became a staple piece of Chinese culture and women’s fashion. 

However, after the 1920s, Western culture began to acknowledge the beauty of the silky garment and sewed it into something sinister. The sexualization and appropriation of the qipao have become increasingly common, perpetuating harmful stereotypes and leading to an increase in the objectification of East Asian women. 

Multiple brands have taken the garment and have warped it into a sexual fantasy. In 2015, Dolce & Gabbana faced backlash for a campaign that depicted models wearing qipaos in suggestive poses. 

The campaign was criticized for reducing a traditional Chinese garment to a sexualized fashion statement, reinforcing stereotypes, and disrespecting Chinese culture.

Victoria’s Secret, a brand known for its sexual background, attempted to appreciate Chinese culture, but they appropriated it. 

The 2017 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show also faced criticism for featuring model Ming Xi in a qipao-inspired outfit. While the brand claimed it was a tribute to Chinese culture, many East Asian women found the outfit to be hyper-sexual, with a high slit and revealing design. 

The qipao was stripped of its cultural context, and in the Western world, it is reduced to a mere fashion statement. This practice erases the cultural and historical significance of the qipao, disrespects the traditions and heritage of East Asian communities, and perpetuates the idea that their culture can be co-opted for aesthetic trends. 

It reinforces the image of them as submissive, exotic, and eager to fulfill Western fantasies. This stereotype reduces the rich tapestry of East Asian identities to a one-dimensional caricature, disregarding the diversity within the community. 

On March 19, 2021, a mass shooting took place at three Atlantic spas. Eight women were shot and six passed away, all of whom were East Asian women. 

The shooter told the police that he was a “sex addict” and had committed this gruesome crime to eliminate his “temptations”. 

This is an example of how the sexualization of the qipao coincidentally paves the way for marginalization and discrimination. East Asian women are unfairly cast as fetishized objects, their agency and individuality eclipsed by this objectifying lens. 

This stereotype not only misrepresents their experiences but also denies them the opportunity to be seen as complex individuals with unique stories, desires, and ambitions.

These are the real-life consequences of sexualizing a dress so closely connected to Chinese culture. 

Donate to The Grizzly Gazette

Your donation will support the student journalists of Los Osos High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Donate to The Grizzly Gazette