A special exhibition at the Chinese Clothing and Culture Center of Fu Jen Catholic University’s department of textiles and clothing opened on Wednesday showcasing an array of qipaos and Chinese-style clothing made by Sister Teresa Fung (馮綺文) over the years.
The 80-year-old Fung became interested in embroidery and tailoring from a young age and has studied the qipao style of clothing her whole life. One of her goals, she says, was to continue to promote teaching how to make the garment.
“Preserve the tradition while bravely trying innovation” is the motto she uses for herself and her students, Fung said from her classroom, as she taught students ironing techniques in Mandarin spoken with a heavy Guangzhou accent.
Fung was born in Guangzhou in 1931 and learned how to sew and tailor clothes for dolls from the age of four. When World War II erupted, she went to Hong Kong, and later, using money given to her by her mother after the war, she bought her first sewing machine, thus making her first step into what would become her life’s work.
Hardworking and eager to learn, Fung rose quickly in the industry and became head of the children’s clothing department at the renowned Green House company at the age of 16.
She later founded a clothing company with some friends and even made a seven-colored petticoat that quickly became a hot fashion item.
Although Fung later joined a convent and became a nun, she never abandoned tailoring. With the support of her convent, she started the St Gabriel’s Tailoring School and was sent to Taiwan in 1979 to teach local nuns how to sew convent clothing.
She started teaching at Fu Jen by 1980 and in the 30 years since then she has passed down her skills to the younger generation.
Fung said she was thankful that God had granted her deft hands to design classically beautiful clothing despite her lack of education. She said that sewing form-fitting qipaos required great attention to detail and that one could not skimp on any of the steps in the process, from observing the body and taking measurements to drawing the design and sewing.
The exposition has 20 different styles of qipaos on display, taking visitors on a trip through modern Chinese fashion history all the way to Shanghai in the 1930s and 1940s.
The exhibition runs through June 18 at the Chinese Clothing and Culture Center in the Chao Yun Building, from 10am to 4pm Monday through Friday. Admission is free.
TRANSLATED BY JACK CHUNG, STAFF WRITER