Saturday, August 04, 2007

A dress for Wei Zhen

Last week, my parents were visiting. On Friday, my mom and I took a trip down to Chinatown to order a qipao. I have no idea what the difference between a qipao and a cheongsam is; I assume it is Mandarin vs. Cantonese. Here's a picture of one:

The Chinese bride apparently changes outfits during her wedding many, many times. The Chinese-American bride most commonly changes only once, at some point during the reception, from her white dress into a red qipao.

I, however, love my white wedding dress, bought in a frenzy at Filene's, so I couldn't decide whether to change. I had some mixed feelings about making the wedding too Chinese--my sweetie is not Chinese, and I am not exactly deeply connected to my Chinese heritage. For a while it really seemed like my Caucasian friends were way more eager for me to do it than I was, which made me even more reluctant: I am not particularly interested in turning my wedding into a miniature "It's a Small World" ride for my white friends and in-laws.

In the end, I left it up to my mother, because if my wedding is going to be at all Chinese, it will be for my parents' benefit. After some waffling, she decided she wanted it. So, off to Chinatown we went.

"Of course" we are having one made for me (you can buy them ready-made, but my mother didn't seem to even consider this). This necessitated much measuring, because the qipao is skin-tight. The dressmaker measured around my arm at three different points. She measured the distance from my collarbone to my nipple. She measured the exact position of the slits up the sides. She wrote them all down on a little chart and drew a rough picture of the finished dress:
If you can read Chinese, you can see what egregious measurements the dressmaker has written down for my bust and wasit. I can only say two things: 1) she measured me over my clothes! and 2) I will lose some weight before the first fitting in December.

The scraps are swatches of the fabrics we chose. The red is a gorgeous brocade with a pattern of phoenixes and dragons (a very traditional wedding combo: the phoenix represents the Empress and the dragon the Emperor). The shop had dozens of red fabrics (I ignored the myriad of other colors because red is the Chinese wedding color) and we draped half a dozen over me before deciding on this one. The gold is the fabric she'll use for piping around the edges. I admit once I was playing with fabric, I was on board: I love the idea of having a dress made just for me, and when else will I get to wear opulent red silk from head to toe? I can't wait!

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