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Dragon Seed Bridal & Photography

Accessible Couture

The Cheongsam or qipao, depending on the Chinese dialect, sweeps into high fashion nearly every season. For this Spring/Summer 2005, various designers showcase different interpretations of this traditional Chinese dress. Whether inspired by luxurious silk designs or the frog closure details, it is evident that from Alexander McQueen to Giorgio Armani to Derek Lam, the influence is hard to dismiss.

Luckily in San Francisco, we are our own design directors. Pass the chirping crickets, idle tourists and down a sloping hill, is Dragon Seed Bridal and Photography, your headquarters where the husband-wife owners, Mr. & Mrs. Tam run the team.

Your right hand person is Mrs. Tam. Henrietta knows everything and anything about cheongsams. She can patiently explain the elements you should consider when constructing your own couture creation.

There is more to designing your cheongsam than just picking your fabric and defining the gown's length. First consider the initial cost of bringing your own material versus choosing the various silk designs that are available on site. Labor begins at $220 if you opt for your own fabric ($260 if you select Dragon Seed's fabric). Make sure you consult with Henrietta on the amount of fabric needed for either a short or long dress since fabric widths may make an impact on the yardage needed.

Dragon Seed carries heavily brocaded silks in blood reds, empire yellows, royal blues and countless pastels. Designs vary from organic bamboo leaves to coiling dragons or soaring phoenixes. There is plenty to choose from, with bolts of fabric stashed away in the back.

Next consider the style you prefer. There are countless designs already for view either in the store or in the catalogs. You can try various closures, short vs. long sleeve, single or double slits, and single, double or triple piping. There are countless varying combinations of creating your own runway look.

I opted for the retro 1960s look that Maggie Cheung brought to life in Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood For Love. The dress is shortened just a snatch past the knee. The sleeves are capped in a certain way. Mr. Tan steps in with sound advice as he takes his tape measure around your figure.

After you have considered the style there are also embellishments to add, if you decide to add a little bling bling. Many of the sequined designs are done by hand and thus require additional time, as they are coordinated in Hong Kong.

As with any runway show, it takes time to design and put concept into production. On average during the summertime, it takes one to two months for the dress to hit your runway. At times it may take longer since many brides have their dresses made here during peak wedding times.

However once the look has been fitted and finished with all the right touches, you are ready for your own one-person runway show. You are the beginning and end of this couture showing. Not only have you created your own trend-setting high fashion must-have look, but also you have evaded the horrors of stepping out on the streets in the same outfit as your boss.

Dragon Seed Bridal & Photography
735 Clay Street
Sunday to Saturday (except Wednesday) 10:00 to 6:00