Shown is a silk georgette blouse with "Mask" print.

Shanghai style
gets an update

The "qi pao" -- the Chinese dress better known in the west as the cheong-sam -- hasn't changed much in 200 years, since it was adapted from the Han tunic known as the "ao."

But Shanghai Tang, a company known for its colorful and contemporary take on Chinese fashion, will demonstrate just how modern the qi pao can be while retaining its distinctive mandarin collar and sexy, form-fitting silhouette.

Designs from Shanghai Tang's Spring-Summer 2005 collection will be unveiled during a Year of the Rooster exhibition at C.S. Wo. A preview will take place from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, with the show continuing during store hours from Monday through Feb. 28.

The exhibition comes at a time when Shanghai is being recast as a symbol of China's economic success and at the leading edge of the country's modernization. Not since the 1930s has Shanghai enjoyed status as a destination for the cognoscenti.

Shanghai Tang's aim is to capture some of the city's old glamour -- rooted in themes of calligraphy to Peking Opera -- while addressing the future and meeting the needs of contemporary women.

Designs to be shown include simple A-line tank dresses with fringed shawl hemlines, fitted jackets with opera mask appliquŽ, tops with "cloud" scalloped necklines, abbreviated qi pao-style blouses in wispy silk georgette with peekaboo necklines under a mandarin collar. Many feature multicolored silk embroidery. Prices range from $100 to $1,000.

In addition to the youthful designs, for the first time in Honolulu, Shanghai Tang will show a few garments from its Imperial Tailors couture division.

Shanghai tailors are credited with creating the earliest version of the qi pao, originally a loose-fitting robe worn during the Qing dynasty. The tailors instigated another wardrobe revolution in the 1960s when they lopped off the hem of this iconic dress to create an above-the-knee version made world-famous by actress Nancy Kwan in "The World of Suzy Wong."

Since then the art of Shanghainese tailoring has slowly died, partly due to the Cultural Revolution's effect as more men and women adapted to wearing humble Mao suits. But Shanghai Tang remains true to the tailoring of the '30s, employing old techniques to create elaborate gowns as befitting China's emperors and empresses.

"The youngest of the tailors is 68 or 69," said Kristin Moore, of the Honolulu Shanghai Tang boutique. "The company is planning to start a school for the dying art."

Among the garments to be shown is a coat reflecting the nomadic clothing tradition of the Qing era's Manchu rulers. The stunning suede coat is trimmed with fur and embellished with layers of fine silk brocade and colorful piping.

Also to be shown and available for sale will be limited-edition T-shirts and tank tops created in collaboration with the trendy U.K. label Studd. The rock 'n' roll shirts, embellished with beads, sequins and embroidery, will be available in three designs: Shanghai Tang's flagship Deco-style Pedder Building in Hong Kong, a dragon and a phoenix.

Also on view

"Kaleidoscope Couture": The 53rd Cherry Blossom Festival Luncheon/Fashion Show takes place Sunday at the Sheraton Waikiki Hawaii Ballroom.

Festival contestants will model outfits by Anne Namba, Linda Iki of Iki Couture Designs, Jan Tsujimura and Sonya Miyashiro of Chikuzen, and Hilo Hattie.

Admission is $45 general and $55 for ramp seats. Doors open at 10:30 a.m.

For more information, visit www.cbfhawaii.com.

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