In the Mood for Cheongsam


Text by Chor Lin Lee and May Khuen Chung
160 pp, 240 mm x 170 mm

ISBN: 978-981-4260-92-3
RRP USD29.90 buy from amazon

Category: Art & Fashion, History
Theme: Singapore

Spanning almost a century, this book examines the origins and development of the cheongsam in the social context of Singapore since its introduction from Shanghai, China, in the 1920s to the present day.

The cheongsam, a one-piece Chinese ladies’ dress that was the epitome of Chinese identity and feminine beauty during the middle decades of the 20th century. Initially seen as a symbol of a trendy, new, Republican China, shorn of the shackles of the imperial system, the cheongsam soon adopted intellectual overtones, and was favoured by the sophisticated and society’s elite at elaborate social functions. When it was abandoned following the success of the Communist Party in China, the cheongsam survived in Singapore as the garment of choice for independent, educated women. Over the years it has risen and fallen in popularity and been revived and re-interpreted for new generations by designers such as Tan Sheau Yun and Priscilla Shunmugan.

Containing extensive archival photographs and showcasing the collection of the National Museum of Singapore (NMS), this book goes beyond a mere study of the garment itself, but places it in context as a symbol of a people and emblem of its times, as well as the role it played in Singapore’s social scene. The book will interest both serious social historians and amateur enthusiasts alike.

Lee Chor Lin is known for her expertise on the textiles of Southeast Asia. She is the author of Ancestral Ships: Fabric Impressions of Old Lampung Culture (1987). She has also contributed essays on Southeast Asian textiles to numerous publications including Sacred Threads: Ceremonial Textiles of Southeast Asia (2001) and Power Dressing: Textiles for Rulers and Priests (2005). Lee began her career with the National Museum of Singapore in 1985, before setting up the Chinese and Southeast Asia galleries at the Asian Civilisations Museum. Returning to the National Museum as Director, she was pivotal in guiding the museum through its redevelopment and re-launch in December 2006.

Chung May Khuen specialises in the fashion history of Singapore women from the 1950s to 1970s. She is currently the curator of the Fashion Gallery (Singapore Living Galleries) of the National Museum and has a MA in History and Culture of Fashion from the London College of Fashion, London. Her research interests include the study of the fashion industry in Singapore from the 1950s to 2000s and Singapore's social, economic and political history through fashion studies.


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