Qipao’s role in Advertisement


Left image taken from: http://www.myelegantdress.com/chinese-qipao-dress-in-advertisements/, artist unknown, date unknown.

Right image taken from : http://mauracunningham.org/2014/09/15/look-like-a-shanghai-girl-in-six-easy-surgeries/, artist unknown, date unknown.

Since the early 1900s qipao has appeared in Chinese advertisements. In some cases, the advertisements and the qipao itself exhibits distinctly western influences and in other cases, in a nod to Chinese nationalism, the qipao appears to be more traditional. Certainly, as Ellen Liang describes in her article, the qipao evolved throughout the 1900s with the changes in China’s relationship with the outside world. Specifically, when China exhibited openness to the west in the early 1910s the qipao exhibited more western qualities, while later when the antiforeign National Goods Movement began the qipao exhibited a more traditional style. (1)  Despite changes in qipao style fluctuating with the changes in China’s political and cultural reality, the role of the qipao in advertising has remained constant. Beginning in the 1900s and continuing to present day, the qipao is used in advertisements to sexualize women and by extension the products they display, a consistently effective tactic in selling products.

brief the intro as not much room for it

In both the vintage and modern advertisements the woman’s body is highlighted with the color of the qipao.  In the older advertisement for the cigarettes, the bright orange color and pattern of the qipao stands out distinctly from the background of the advertisement, immediately drawing the viewer’s attention to the model’s body. In the modern advertisement, the shiny gold also draws the reader’s eye immediately to the woman’s body and the sash whose color also stands out from the dark background further highlights the the small waist of the woman, a tool typically used to sexualize woman. In these ways, the colors of both dresses highlight the women and specifically make their bodies the focus of the advertisement thus sexualizing them and the product they are displaying.

In both advertisements the form fitting nature of the dress further highlights the woman’s body and further contributes to sexualizing the woman and by extension the product. However, one distinct component of the modern advertisement is that the woman’s body has become so objectified and thus sexualized that her face is no longer visible. It seems that the woman’s body in the vintage advertisement had not yet been sexualized to the same degree because while her body is central to the advertisement it is not highlighted at the expense of the face as it is in the modern advertisement. In fact, the vintage advertisement highlights the woman’s face with bright cheeks and pulled back hair.

Analysis of these two advertisements reveals the qipao’s key role in sexualizing women particularly in the context of marketing products. This tactic has clearly been used since the advent of modern advertising in the early 1900s to increase the desirability of a product by associating it with a sexually enticing woman. However, it seems, according to the extensive analysis of the qipao done by both Ellen Liang and Matthew Chen that this could be a perversion of the qipao as a symbol of traditional Chinese culture perpetuated by the advertising industry. Moreover, considering the qipao’s rich historic background particularly, in some historical contexts, as an empowering article of clothing for women, its use in marketing as a way of sexualizing women seems to be especially problematic. see that happens if use this paragraph as introduction

Works Cited:

(1) Ellen Liang, “Visual evidence for the evolution of politically correct dress for women in early twentieth century Shanghai”, Nan Nu, 5.1 (2003): 69-114.