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Wed, Jan 21, 2009
The Star
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Three rules to break this CNY
by Patsy Kam

COME this Chinese New Year, the Chinese dress takes centrestage once again. However, there are so many dos and don'ts concerning Chinese traditional wear that most people can't seem to look past the Mandarin collar.

Even the simple pairing of a Chinese cheongsam top with jeans can break the monotony, and give a fresh take to an otherwise staid and predictable fashion statement. Of course, the simplified take on Chinese wear - modernised collar, chopped-up cheongsam and pared down design - is not for every woman.

A minority still want the full romance of the Chinese costume: the formal collar, the embellished "kum" or side closure, the hand-stitched buttons, the butterflies and peonies. In fact, it's often the hip young woman in the urban sassy get-up who wants to step out in full retro.

Designer Leung Thong Ping of Mayfair Designs suggests three golden rules to break this Chinese new year.

Rule one: The Mandarin collar, says the diehard conventional, has to be high and firmly buttoned down to look respectable. Unbutton it and you look like a slut.

But then, who wants to look respectable when you can get away with being fashionable? To overcome the resistance to conventional collars from the younger customer, Leung has lowered it to just about 1cm high.

However, some still complain that it's sitting too high, so for such women, there's an innovative version modelled on the shirt collar: close it if you like or show off the colourful lining inside for a dash of difference.

Rule two: The cheongsam has to be figure-hugging so it's tough luck if you haven't got the curves to carry it off. In the movie In The Mood for Love, Maggie Cheung perpetuated the unfortunate myth that there's only one right shape for the cheongsam. Women in real life, however, can have their own take on the garment. Leung believes that one should be able to breathe, eat and even squat in the costume. Her stylishly loose cheongsam has long been the mainstay of her label.

For this new year, Leung has chosen to stretch the imagination with the stretch knit cheongsam that drops from the shoulders in one flattering sheath. What can be more seductively comfortable? If that's still too demanding, consider the next best thing - a Mandarin top.

Rule three: Chinese clothes must be in loud colours. Most people are more familiar with the vulgar, in-your-face interpretations of Chinese wear and anything less than red is not good enough.

Fact is, classy Chinese clothes should never be loud or pretentious. Leung's designs come in refined and subtle shades that can take you anywhere, be it the formal function at the office or the casual affair with friends.

Advice for breaking all the rules this Chinese New Year is handed out with a word of caution. One can easily go over the top and come up with the most eye-popping variations in the name of fashion. You could be remembered for what you wore even when Christmas arrives and it's certainly not going to be the most flattering of compliments!

Generally, Mayfair's collection this festive season is pragmatic and versatile: colours are softer, the fabric lightweight and the use of prints subdued. The relaxed tops, mostly in cotton, are styled to look cool with jeans for everyday use.

There are also many intricate pieces with Mayfair's signature touch to offer a choice to both the purist and the experimental.

For details, call 03-2145 9936.

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