It was back in the 1920s that Shanghai clothiers took the then bulky qipao (also known as a "cheongsam"), stripped it down, and added sensual curves to it. The qipao would be transformed in our minds and on lithe women's bodies forevermore. Elegance, tradition and downright sexy had never been so well combined. In China, anyhow.
With the advent of the sexual liberation of America in the 60s, even China was affected: qipao lengths started hiking up higher and higher. The 1960 film World of Suzie Wong (which featured sex starlet Nancy Kwan as a prostitute) fostered the popularity of qipaos in the west. Half a decade later, western celebrities still show off their qipaos to the paparazzi: Kylie Minogue, Paris Hilton, anyone?
In Shanghai, gorgeous qipaos aren't hard to find, but there's a particularly high concentration of stores selling them on Changle Road, Luwan District. Prices can start as low as a few hundred yuan, but if you want to unload 10,000 yuan or more, it certainly isn't hard to do. The Hanyi Cheongsam Store and the 2002 Marine Cheongsam Store are among a number of quality outfitters in the neighborhood.
Hanyi Cheongsam Store
Address: 217 - 221 Changle Road, Luwan District
2002 Marine Cheongsam Store
201 Changle Road, Luwan District