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File:Rsz qipao 9822.jpg

Qipao (旗袍 qípáo and pronounced roughly chee-pow) is the Mandarin Chinese name for the body-hugging, high-necked dress fashionable in the Chinese world between the 1920s and 1960s, and still popular on formal occasions to this day. The same garment is often called a cheongsam, a name derived from Cantonese.

In popular culture, nothing spells "Chinese" like a qipao, and as a result, if a Chinese Girl or a Dragon Lady shows up, chances are she'll be wearing one. The qipao was not originally Chinese, but introduced by the Manchu invaders who established the Qing Dynasty, and was traditionally loose-fitting. The high-slit, body-hugging dress with which the name is now associated was invented in Shanghai in the 1920s.

The qipao, or at least a dress cut like it, is also occasionally worn by non-Chinese women, as its tight fit and slit up the side ramp up the sexiness of the character while still being relatively modest. Almost always used as Fan Service.


Anime and Manga


  • Les Innommables: Alix frequently wears a qipao, and so do the prostitutes at the Purple Lotus.
  • An old Archie comic has Veronica wearing a qipao, and getting furious when everyone comments on her "ripped dress".
  • Ninjette wears one in Empowered #4, at the Capeys Awards.
  • The DC Comics villainess Roulette wears one as her signature outfit, despite being white.

Fan Fiction

Films — Live-Action

  • Nancy Kwan famously wore one in The World of Suzie Wong.
  • The two Chinese women who show up at the party in Breakfast at Tiffany's wear qipaos. Another guest tells one of them "Hey, honey, your skirt's split there."
  • James Bond: In Dr. No, Ursula Andress and Zena Marshall are both seen wearing qipaos.
  • One of the most famous examples in recent years is Maggie Cheung in In the Mood for Love. Not only is she wearing a qipao in every single scene, it's always a different one.
  • 2046 also by Wong Kar-wai is pretty much just the main character reminiscing with how great Maggie Cheung's Qipaos compete with long lingering shot of her standing in halls and walking in slow mode.
  • In Kill Bill, Sofie Fatale wears a garment resembling a qipao, but it is actually much closer to the traditional man's changshan. This may have been deliberate to suggest that she's a lesbian.
  • In Lust, Caution, Wong Chia-chi wears a qipao as part of her bored upper-class woman persona. In one scene, she goes to the tailor in the company of Mr. Yee to have a new one fitted, but it turns out to be slightly too tight. The result does not leave Mr. Yee indifferent.
  • The title character of House of Harmony (played by Maggie Q) wears a qipao as a matter of course, except on one occasion, when she put on a Western-style dress in an unsuccessful attempt to blend in.
  • In So I Married an Axe Murderer Nancy Travis wears a red qipao to a dinner on her honeymoon night with Mike Myers.
  • Mary-Jane Watson wears a qipao during a social occasion in the film version of Spider-Man.
  • Many characters in Flower Drum Song since it's set in 1950's Chinatown, San Francisco and the characters are either Chinese immigrants or children of Chinese immigrants.
  • In Brick, the Femme Fatale Laura Dannon wears a rather striking red one in an early party scene.
  • Cho Chang wore a qipao-style dress at the Yule Ball in the film version of Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire.


  • The protagonists of Shanghai Girls, being fashion-conscious upper-class young women, make a big deal of wearing qipaos in the latest styles.
  • In The Westing Game, Grace Wexler insists that Madame Sun Lin Hoo wear these to play up the "delicate Chinese lady" image, especially when she plays waitress at Angela's bridal shower. Sun hates these dresses, noting that in the decade the book takes place in, women in China wear comfortable pants, blouses, and jackets. She eventually switches to this look near the end of the story.

Live-Action TV

  • Anna Wu wore this in an episode of Chuck, to impress her very traditional parents.
  • In The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode "The Hong Kong Shilling Affair", Heavenly Cortelle wears a qipao.


  • Chun Li in Street Fighter wears a modified version. Among the differences to the traditional kind are short, puffy sleeves, a white obi lining the waist, and one huge slit on each side (instead of a single slit over one of the legs, making the skirt look more like a cloth on the front and a tail on the back), which allows for more freedom of movement (and not coincidentally shows off her muscular thighs).
  • An outfit for the thief class for females in Maple Story.
  • Guild Wars: Female mesmer clothing in factions.
  • Litchi from Blaz Blue wears one.
  • Hong Meiling of the Touhou series is also depicted in fanart as wearing one, though in the original ZUN art, she wears a cheongsam with a pair of pants.
  • Part of the 'official' uniform for female Monks in Dragon Quest IX.
  • Anna Williams in Tekken. Oddly Xiaoyu, the actual Chinese Girl of the game largely eschews ethnic dress, mostly favoring athletic wear instead.
  • One of Lei-Fang's costumes in Dead or Alive. Very iconic of the series since almost every attack she does while in it guarantees a Panty Shot.
  • Maggie Chow in Deus Ex wears one to go with her Dragon Lady character.
  • Li Kohran, the Chinese Girl of Sakura Wars, is often seen wearing one.
  • Final Fantasy V: Lenna wears one when she becomes the Monk class.
  • Shadow Yamato in the Sega CD version of Eternal Champions. She's a Ninja, by the way.
  • Shenmue 2: Xiuying Hong.
  • In Perfect Dark, Joanna Dark dons a qipao with a red dragon print in preparation for a formal event, as seen here (spoilers).
  • In Resident Evil 4, Ada Wong fights zombies in an incredibly tight qipao. One wonders how she manages to walk without falling in it, let alone pull some of the stunts she does.
  • Marilyn Sue from Akatsuki Blitzkampf fights in a gold qipao with very high slits running up either side. This doesn't pose much of a problem for her during fights, since her style emphasises powerful jabs, chops and palm strikes over kicks.
  • Occasionally on winning, Mei-Fang in Arcana Heart changes costume into a Qipao.
  • Fumi in Devil Survivor 2.
  • Many dresses in Love Nikki: Dress-Up Queen are this style.


Web Originals

Western Animation

  • The Venture Brothers - Dr. Girlfriend wears one to pick up an on-the-prowl Rusty as part of a scheme of the Monarch's.
  • Wing, the real life Chinese songstress appearing on the eponymous episode of South Park wears a red qipao.
  • Some of the outfits Mulan wore in the Direct to Video film Mulan II resemble this. Other times, she would be either wearing the training uniform and/or her battle armor or various types of hanfu dresses.