Qipao Love: Part 2 ~The flapper girl in a Qipao who captured the West.....Anna May Wong!

Source: lolitasclassics.blogspot.co.uk/2009/08/anna-may-wong
I am not the first to write about the captivating beauty that is Anna May Wong, and I most definitely will not be the last, which is why I have decided to focus this post on what I found interesting about her life rather than a full biography. As I searched through the world wide web to find more information and photographs of her, I was especially struck with the cigarette cards (left and further below) which depicted her in a mandarin collared Qipao and described her as a modern beauty. In the age which she lived, she was indeed strikingly beautiful and carved a path of modernity for herself. Being the very first American Asian actress to succeed in making an impact in Hollywood during the silent film era by having more than 80 films to her name and received such global fame that her audience kept asking for more, she was not just another Asian beauty...she was a star in the eyes of her admirers, and to me she was a glamorous siren who introduced the Qipao to the West (hence the post title and why it is Part Two of the Qipao Love series)!

[If you would like to read a full biography of Anna May Wong on Wikipedia, please click here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_May_Wong]  

The dragon gown designed by Travis Benton for her role of Tu Tuan in Limehouse Blues (1934).
Anna May Wong was born as 'Frosted Willow' (pronounced Liu Shuang in Mandarin or Liu Tsong in Cantonese) on 3 January 1905 to second generation American Chinese parents, on nearby Chinatown's Flower Street in Los Angeles, and still planned to film the 'Flower Drum Song' before she passed away on 3 February 1961 at the age of 56 years. For you darlings who may know a little about the Chinese culture, you might know that a Chinese name can often reflect one's family background as well as the hopes of the parents for the child, which is why Chinese names are often symbolic and poetic. Like the delicate willow that danced beautifully in the wind but still remains strongly upright and rooted, Anna May Wong was a courageous child who found her passion in film at a tender age of 9 years old and started begging filmmakers who were filming nearby to give her a part in the movie. She was a daughter of a second wife, one amongst six other siblings and her father disapproved of her ambitions for film, but strongly determined to become an actress she obtained her first lead role as Lotus Flower in the Technicolour movie 'The Toll of the Sea' by the age of 17 years.

Link: http://redressingblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/fab-frock-friday-cheongsam-dresses.html 
Though Anna May Wong had the charismatic qualities of a leading lady for a variety of roles that could have been perfect for her and was highly praised by critics as well as audiences, she was not to be more than a stereotyped supporting act. Like a bright star waiting for her night to shine, she was frustrated as an American who was treated a foreigner in her own home and cultivated a daring image as a flapper in hope to change things. Moving to Europe her talents were recognised as well as highly praised and Europe was falling in love with her, but she was still seen as an exotic Chinese beauty as audiences forgot all about her American birth.

But on another more positive note, Anna May Wong became one of the most fashionable ladies of the decade when the Mayfair Mannequin Society of New York named her the 'World's Best-Dressed Woman' in 1934 and Look magazine named her the 'World's Most Beautiful Chinese Girl' in 1938. She struggled to break through biases learning different languages as well as cultures and travelling to China as well as Europe, though sadly the breakthrough she sought did not result and she was plagued by depression...she did gain in theatrical skills, continued fame for the work she did as well as the causes she fought to make things better for others and accumulated a beautiful collection of Qipao dresses. Below is a clip (thanks to Dave at the 'Soft Film: Vintage Chinese Cinema' blog) from the Technicolour short film 'Hollywood Party' (1937), where you will be able to see Anna May Wong sporting the British accent she learnt whilst in Europe and modelling some lovely full length Qipao dresses:

 Video link for 'The Incomparable Wong Liu Tsong in Technicolor':

Link: http://theatreoffashion.co.uk/2011/10/18/ready-for-my-close-up-anna-may-wong/ 

Link: http://keijing.com/2012/08/31/anna-may-wong/ 

Shanghai Express (1932)

Source: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2010/02/28/dead-cool-anna-may-wong.html?cid=bs:archive4 

Anna May Wong was also seen wearing the Qipao in a video from the Anna May Wong Society showing her travels around China in 1936 (below). The narrator explains how she was greeted by the press, was able to learn Mandarin in her short visit (as she only spoke the Taishan dialect when she arrived), saw the real life conditions in Shanghai, visited film sets and discussed the Hollywood acting scene with local (China) famous actress Hu Die. At a time when the cinema boomed and famous actresses in China were dressed in best tailored or styled Qipao, it propelled the Qipao into one of the most popular dress of choice for Chinese ladies who wanted to be fashionable...which has most probably sparked off Anna May Wong's interest in the Qipao. Not only did she acquire some Qipao during her travels in China, Paramount Studios costume designer Travis Benton also designed Qipao dresses for her acting wardrobe...perhaps the most remembered is the black and gold dragon gown for the character of Tu Tuan in the Limehouse Blues (1934). [Video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuEQTMof9oI]

The dragon gown by Travis Benton...
Source: http://leopardandlipstick.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/anna-may-wong-first-chinese-american.html 

Garbaty's Cigarettes card, Modernschonheitsgalerie (Gallery of modern Beauty ~ c1935)
#103 Anna May Wong ~ Chinese American actress, 1905-61

Last but not in the very least, I leave you with the song 'These Foolish Things' that was written in the 1930s for Anna May Wong (in a modern rendition by Rod Steward, video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsUVKmDHNcg) and a showcase of her photos. If Anna May Wong lived today, she would celebrate her next birthday soon after we enter the new year...so Happy Birthday Anna May!

[Not to forget to mention...for you lovely darlings who like using Pinterest, I have been building a 'Qipao Love' board there which you can take a look through this link: pinterest.com/missmayloh/qipao-love-all-about-qipao-to-cheongsam/

I also hope you lovely darlings will have a fabulous time celebrating the beginning of 2013 with those you hold dear...may it be a year blessed with lots of happiness and love for all...Happy New Year 2013 my darlings!

Until the next time,
May xx

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PS: If you would like to find out more about Anna May Wong, these articles may be of interest:


  1. Replies
    1. She is beautifully charismatic...and a very interesting lady too! :)

  2. great inspiration!
    lovely greets and
    happy new year 2013.
    maren anita

    FASHION-MEETS-ART by Maren Anita

    1. Thank you sweety! Glad you found it inspirational...and a very Happy New Year 2013 to you too!
      May x

  3. This post is marvelous, May! I've always adored Anna May, and loved seeing so many photos of this timeless beauty in one spot. What an informative, lovely post to wrap up 2012 with.

    ♥ Jessica

    1. Thank you so much my dear! Glad you enjoyed the post and I absolutely loved all those photos too! Hope you had a lovely start to the new year!
      May xx

  4. A traditional beauty.


    1. She is indeed! Thank you for stopping by sweety and hope you had a great new year's celebration!
      May x


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♥ May xx
E: walkingdivinelyinmay[at]gmail[dot]com