Hello! Is it okay to wear a Cheongsam if you&r…

Hello! Is it okay to wear a Cheongsam if you’re not Chinese? If so when? If not I’ll drop the idea. It may sound silly but I recreate photos of bratz dolls (as makeup and clothing) and I found one of a doll wearing a Cheongsam and I really liked it but I want to be respectful. I thought maybe leaving it for New Years as it is a festive time but idk since Chinese New Years is on February. In no way I’m trying to make fun of the Chinese culture that’s why I wanted to ask someone who is Chinese

Hi, thanks for the question!

As I explained in my reply here to a similar question about hanfu, I personally have no issue with people who aren’t Chinese wearing traditional Chinese clothing, including cheongsam/qipao, if it’s done respectfully. By respectfully, I mean having respectful intent, being aware of the background and cultural context of the clothing, and making an effort to wear the clothing accurately. 

Based on what you’ve told me about your situation, I think it would be fine for you to wear a cheongsam for your recreation photoshoot. It doesn’t necessarily have to be during a festive time, since cheongsam can be worn casually or formally. The only concern for me is that Bratz dolls tend to have exaggerated styling, so I’d be mindful of the hair, makeup, and posing, so as not to come off as a caricature. The following are examples of common mistakes to avoid:

1) Strange makeup and hairstyles (X): White face makeup has been used throughout Chinese history, and is still used today in some cultural contexts (ex: Chinese opera), but it has never been associated with cheongsam. In addition, chopsticks are not used as hair ornaments. Furthermore, even if the lady in the picture below is wearing actual hairsticks, their positioning is strange.

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2) Inappropriate poses (X): Despite common misconception, Chinese people do not use the “prayer pose” (合掌/Hezhang) for anything besides Buddhist-related activities. The prayer pose is the Añjali Mudrā, a hand gesture which is “used as a sign of respect and a greeting in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Burma and Indonesia; among East Asian Buddhists and yoga practitioners and adherents of similar traditions” (Wiki).  

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People may be confusing the prayer pose with the

Fist and Palm Salute (拱手礼/Gongshou Li), which is a traditional pose that Chinese people use for greetings during events such as Chinese new year.

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This pose consists of making a half-fist with one hand, and having the other hand hold the half-fist in front of the chest. Men should have the left hand on top, and women should have the right hand on top (although most people aren’t aware of this rule). 

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Overall, if you avoid these mistakes and keep it classy, I don’t think there should be any cause for concern. (Image Via)

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Finally, just a disclaimer that I speak only for myself, not all Chinese people – so there may be differing viewpoints on the topic.

Hope this helps!