In the mood for cheongsam: The wardrobe of Maggie Cheung from "In the mood for love" (2000)
The film In the mood for love is a cinematic masterpiece created and directed by Hongkog director Wong Kar-Wai. It tells the story of two neighbours living in the same building in HongKong, a Mrs Chan(played by Maggie Cheung) and a Mr. Chou(Tony Leung) met and became friends as their spouses seemed on business trips all the time, until one day, they found the spouses Mr. Chan and Mrs. Chou were actually betraying them with each other. In the process of handling the anger and hurt with the betrayal, Mrs. Chan and Mr. Chou started to spend more time together, and their own feeling changed, but they decided not to behave like their spouses.
The story itself is not unusual, even a little ordinary, that can happen in any place, any city. But with the music of Shigeru Umebayashi and costumes designed by William Chang Suk-ping, in particular the outfits he designed for Maggie Chueng as Mrs. Chan, the story acquires a very poetic aura.
Mrs.Chan wears 21 outfits in the movie, all cheongsam, a traditional Chinese dress(qingpao or mandarin gown, 旗袍) originating in early 20th centuries with fitting shape, side closure and splits(usually quite high).
The Cheongsams are almost all designed in patterns, sometimes florals, sometimes stripes or spirals, sometimes geometric prints. They are meant to reflect Mrs. Chan's moods as the story develops.
The Cheongsams Maggie Cheung wear as Mrs. Chan are similar in style as the women around her, but different in small details, in particular the closures: Where the traditional cheongsams are usually closed with buttons of same fabric as a distinctive and sometimes important design detail, most of Mrs. Chan's cheongsams are closed subtly, sometimes with invisible snap buttons, to look more smooth, simple and elegant, and better frame her face as her moods and feeling change.
This scarlet red cheongsam is the most unique one Maggie Cheung wears in the movie. It is designed with very rose patterns so it looks almost solid red from far away, perhaps to hint at pure passion, the roses could be read as symbols of love, and the upper part of the bodice is made of flimsy chiffon, mirroring her longing for him. It is designed as a dress of passion and love and desire, but in the final movie only showed once and from back (all the pictures with details can only be found from the director's cut.). It seems Wong wanted to keep the poetry of the protagonists' feelings, and showing their awkward intent in consummating their romance would destroy that.
No. 18 to No. 21
William Chang is a frequent collaborator of auteur director Wong Kar-Wai, as art director, costume designer as well as editor. In this film, he was also production manager and was in charge of the settings, and it seemed he sometimes deliberately matched the costumes of Maggie Cheung (As Mrs. Chan) with the environment she was in, or the objects she was using, to create a visual harmony and give the audience a pure aesthetic experience.
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