Great Outfits in Fashion History: Maggie Cheung’s Cheongsam in ‘In the Mood For Love’

Must read

Diving into the fashion archives of Wong Kar Wai’s sultry 2000 movie.


There are perfectly good celebrity style moments, and then there are the looks that really stick with you, the ones you try desperately to recreate at home. In ‘Great Outfits in Fashion History,’ Fashionista editors are revisiting their all-time favorite lewks.

Perhaps one of director Wong Kar-Wai’s best films is “In the Mood for Love,” a slow-burning, visually captivating romance released in 2000 but set in 1960s Hong Kong. While it depicts a time period long before I was born, something about the lush cinematography, exquisite wardrobe and swoon-worthy plot makes me feel an unexplainable connection to the movie. 

“In the Mood for Love” stars legendary Cantonese actor Maggie Cheung as Mrs. Chan, a secretary who suspects her husband of cheating on her. Her neighbor, journalist Chow Mo-wan (played by Tony Leung), raises similar doubts about his wife. As the two come together to piece together the puzzle of their spouses’ adulterous relationships (with each other, nonetheless), the protagonists also begin to develop forbidden feelings towards one another. 

The brilliance of the film is enhanced by the costume design by William Chang. Fashion is used as a plot vehicle throughout — the sartorial coincidences of each protagonist’s spouse is what gives away their infidelity, for one. But perhaps the most stunning pieces are the rotation of cheongsams (or qipao) worn by Cheung. According to CNN Style, Chang had nearly 50 of the traditional Chinese garment, only about 25 of which appear in the final cut. 

Scroll to Continue

The above still captures the climax of the film, when the two characters attempt to confess their love to one another. Cheung wears a stunning multicolored purple, green and magenta floral cheongsam. The construction of her dress is consistent to the style of a modern cheongsam, which has been adapted to feature raised hemlines and a more figure-hugging silhouette from its traditional cut. Cheung’s hair is done in an updo so as to better reveal the high, starched mandarin collar, the tightness of the dress perhaps a metaphor for her constriction of feelings. The sleeveless style is adorned with roses and daffodils constructed from diaphanous chiffon and placed upon structured tweed.

The brightly-colored garment contrasts effectively with the dimly lit corridors and shadowy alleyways where much of the film takes place, as well as the predominantly darker wardrobe donned by Mr. Chow. Cheung completes the look with a simple brown purse and silver earrings, allowing the dress to take the spotlight. 

Explore the gallery below for cheongsams and cheongsam-inspired pieces that embody the same feeling as Maggie Cheung in “In the Mood for Love.” 

Please note: Occasionally, we use affiliate links on our site. This in no way affects our editorial decision-making.

Want more Fashionista? Sign up for our daily newsletter and get us directly in your inbox.

More articles

Latest article