For May Loh, the glamour of 1920s and 1930s Shanghai is a constant source of fashion inspiration, and her vintage wardrobe focuses heavily on the Qipao (or cheongsam, a body-hugging one-piece dress that originated in China) - she's got one in every colour combination and print, which she wears throughout the 15 days of the Chinese New Year celebrations.
She'll team her cheongsam dresses (she has vintage, repro and contemporary versions in her collection) with high street pieces, vintage accessories and unexpected add-ons (like a fluffy pink petticoat for some 1950s flair) and finds some of her best pieces scouring eBay, Shoreditch and vintage fairs.
A Zen yoga teacher by day at The Cat Pose in London, May blogs about all things vintage and Qipao-related on her blog, Walking in May. Don't miss all of the pics of her favourite vintage wardrobe pieces plus all of her tips on how to rock the Qipao, no matter your style...
Any top tips for styling vintage outfits?
I often get asked how to accessorize the Qipao, and my answer tends to be: 'What would you like your Qipao to say about you?' If you would like an elegant vintage style, then go for pearls, headpieces, faux fur wraps or a crystal brooch.
If you would like to be edgy in a contemporary sense, then wearing the cheongsam with boots, dark silver jewellery or pop-colour accessories can bring out a youthful look. I try to recreate different styles that resonate with me as an individual and add my own creative styling into it... as the Qipao is ultimately about the wearer rather than the dress, because it was traditionally tailored or handmade for each lady with a specific purpose in mind.
What do you need to watch out for when buying vintage? Top vintage-scouring tips?
1) It depends what you are looking for, so try to make sure you have a good idea of what you want and don't want in a vintage piece. It is either difficult to find a vintage piece of your desired style, fit and era, or it can be costly when you find the closest to perfect piece, so prioritise what is important to you.
2) Where you go in search of a particular vintage item such as the cheongsam is also important. Some might not realise but even in vintage markets or stalls, what appears in Vogue or catwalks today can influence what stock the sellers bring out to sell. So you are more likely to find a vintage cheongsam online or in a vintage shop.
3) Consider the era you want. If you are looking for a vintage cheongsam, 1950s onwards is probably your safest bet and the most likely pieces on the market, unless you manage to locate a private family collection... But then size could be an issue as it was not unusual for women to have tiny 21-inch waists many decades ago!
Explore the fabric for more choice; brocade is probably the most generically common when it comes to the Qipao and many are still reproduced in mass quantities today, but it is not that easy to wear and care for, so take a look at the linen, cotton or lighter silk varieties, too.
What are your favourite vintage eras? Style icons (current and from the past)?
My favourite era is the glamorous 1920s to 1930s, where a true mixture of West and East started to play in high-society parties filled with dance and glamour. I admire Anna May Wong's efforts to bring the Asian culture globally and her love for the Qipao, but I also love drawing inspiration from the various styles of many different iconic ladies of past times from Hu Die, Ruan Lingyu and Nancy Kwan to Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and even Amy Winehouse.
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