Oriental style – Cheongsam

Oriental styles are fashionably ‘ethnic’ this season (2011). My previous post was on the Japanese kimono, rather a long post as it’s a popular shape. The second trendy oriental shape is the Chinese cheongsam (qi pao), which I’ve found less about.

The cheongsam is a western influenced version of traditional Chinese dress, a sheath dress with mandarin collar and side angled neck opening.

If you prefer the big pattern companies, here are a couple of dress patterns. Burda 8438 (left) and New Look 6812 (now oop). (The Burda dress has a centre back zip, the New Look dress has no zip.)


Or New Look 6203, for a top with skirt and pants (no zip). Now available only as a download pattern, here.


It’s not a wrap style. Here’s a diagram of the pattern piece shapes. Could you use that as a guide to adapting your favourite sheath dress pattern ?

Folkwear has patterns for a cheongsam, Folkwear 122 (left) (no zip) and for a jacket with similar side opening Folkwear 114 (right).


Not many patterns available, compared to the riches for the kimono. There is a free download sleeveless cheongsam pattern here (side seam zip).


(Notice some patterns have the opening to the armhole, some to below the armhole. The Chinese diagram of the pattern pieces has the opening to below the armhole, and angled darts so it’s possible to get a good fit. I suspect the free pattern, with opening to below armhole and no dart that side, may be more difficult to get to lay neatly against the body.)

Japanese company Clover has templates so it’s relatively easy to make the traditional Asian Knot buttons from cord or bias rouleaux.

For a beautiful book, there’s Cheongsam by Pepin van Roojen, which includes a CD of dress and fabric images.

If you look good in a more fitted shape, this may be a much better oriental style for you than the straight kimono. Use a border print or a brocade. Have fun making something exotic :D

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Originally written February 2011.
Patterns and links available October 2012.

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4 Comments on “Oriental style – Cheongsam”

  1. Marie-Christine Says:

    There’s also a good Japanese pattern book called “Chinese style”. Usually available from pomadour, but with the earthquake and all.. Still, you can see examples of its patterns done up at http://japancouture.canalblog.com/archives/livre_119/index.html it’s book no 119 on the left-side list.

    • sewingplums Says:

      Thanks for the suggestion, Marie Christine.

      Happily Simply Pretty Pomadour is unaffected by the earthquake, and she says the Japanese postal service is still working.

      Sadly the Chinese Style book you mention is not currently available from her. Worth looking out for !

  2. Natasha Connor Says:

    I am looking for a cheongsam style dress in a U.S. woman’s size 28 to buy or make myself by my birthday on Sept 20,13

    • sewingplums Says:

      Take your own measurements and check the size charts, Natasha. Pattern sizes and RTW sizes are not the same. I don’t know what your measurements are, but the Folkwear and free patterns both go up to generous sizes. Best Wishes for your birthday :D

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