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How can we choose a high-quality Mandarin dress To judge how comfortable and how stylish a Mandarin dress is, we can look at its shape, trims, embroidery and frog buttons.

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Shape
First and foremost, a good Mandarin dress should fit you right. Mr. Chenggui Yang, a deceased Mandarin dress master, placed classic Mandarin dress patterns into more than 20 categories, based on Chinese women's body types. Every Mandarin dress tailor will adjust details of a particular pattern based on distinctive features of a customer's shape after taking her measurements. This is meant to make the Mandarin dress fit the customer to a T, and to accentuate her unique demeanor at the same time.

Fabrics and their Patterns
The texture of the fabric directly affects how the dress clings to or drapes over the body. Numerous tailors have said that almost all fabrics can be used to make Mandarin dresses.

Among traditional fabric choices, brocade is a little stiff, so it can camouflage imperfections of the wearer's figure to a certain degree. Generally, brocade is used for formal gowns or winter dresses. By contrast, pure silk is softer. It can be applied to formal occasions as well, but more suitable for summer dresses.

Nowadays new fabrics, such as Lycra, are getting more and more popular with Mandarin dress designers.

Today's Mandarin dresses are becoming more casual in order to serve as daily outfits. However, for some important occasions in China, some specific elements of tradition will still apply. For instance, at a Chinese wedding banquet, the bride will probably wear a Mandarin dress embroidered with either a phoenix or some peony flowers and perhaps lilies, all of which are auspicious symbols. The phoenix used to represent the empress, so it means ¡°high class.¡± Peony flowers always signifies wealth and prosperity in Chinese culture. As for lilies, their Chinese name baihe sounds like an abbreviation for ¡°living together for 100 years in harmony¡± in Chinese.

When it comes to casual wear, young ladies in China often choose neutral-colored plaid Mandarin dresses, which look collegiate. Some prefer lotus flowers, which symbolize ¡°purity¡± in Chinese culture, on their Mandarin dresses for a refreshing summer style.

Trimming
Trims almost always go around the collar, slits, sleeves and hem of a Mandarin dress. The tailor will generally choose a ribbon in a similar color to that of the dress to make the trims.

To judge how well made a Mandarin dress is, it is a requirement to examine its trims. Besides looking at the trims from the outside, we will turn them to see if they look even and carefully sewn inside. There is a strict rule for hand-made trims, mandating 11 to 12 stitches for every 3.3 centimeters. Following this rule will make the trim feel soft. Too many stitches will harden the fabric. Too few stitches will look like a sloppy job.

Embroidery
It is important to check the embroidery to see if a Mandarin dress is high quality. Embroidery is an art with local flavors from certain regions of China. The best-known regional embroidery styles include those from Beijing, Suzhou (a city near Shanghai), Hunan Province (in central China), and Shanghai. Most commonly seen are embroidery techniques inherited from Beijing and Suzhou.

Beijing embroidery is also known as royal embroidery. It is one of the so-called ¡°eight miracles¡± of Beijing. The other seven are cloisonne, jade carving, ivory carving, lacquer ware carving, gold lacquer inlaid making, filigree inlaid making, and royal carpet weaving.

The most distinctive features of Beijing embroidery are select fabrics and vibrant colors. The embroidered items look classy and elegant. The embroidered patterns are meaningful pictures with auspicious wishes. The rank badge of the Qing Dynasty's officer uniform can represent Beijing embroidery. A typical technique of Beijing embroidery is to rub real gold into thread and then bend the thread into patterns, with knots on them.

Suzhou embroidery is headquartered in the city of Suzhou. It is famous for its thoughtful stitches and gentle blending of colors. It is applied to patches, stage costumes, and room-diving screens. Its most amazing feature is double-sided embroidery, which shows one pattern on the outer or front side and a completely different one on the inner or back side!

Pieces of Suzhou embroidery often look like vivid paintings.? The technique is called ¡°painting with needles.¡± Suzhou embroidery is widely recognized for its smooth, neat, harmonious, shiny, fluid, and evenly balanced qualities.

Frog Buttons
The making of frog buttons is an important part that showcases the craft of a Mandarin dress tailor. Frog buttons are a unique feature of traditional Chinese garments. They are placed over the collar, lapel, and slits of traditional Mandarin dresses. Modern Mandarin dresses usually have a side zipper or back zipper instead of lapel frog buttons for the sake of convenience. However, one frog button will remain on the collar. It is used not only to close but also to embellish the two-piece collar.

Frog buttons are small, but their production may be more complicated than that of a dress. They are mostly made of fabrics, but perhaps mixed with silk ribbons and copper wires, bent into all kinds of patterns. Their traditional shapes include ¡°horizontal lines,¡± ¡°gourd,¡± and ¡°lute.¡± Some of them are shaped like orchid or chrysanthemum flowers. They may be bent into the shapes of Chinese words as well. Typical examples are ¡°luck,¡± ¡°status,¡± ¡°longevity,¡± and ¡°joy.¡± They also come in the shapes of dragons and phoenixes. All these are auspicious symbols.

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