Popo and 2 very striking Cheongsams


Popo also know as Grandmother/Grams/Granny/Nonna/Nanna

My popo is a very important lady in my life. She was the one who bathed me, fed me, rock me to sleep, stopped bullies from bullying me and basically cared for me when my parents were busy at work.

To me, she seems to know everything, from how to fix Barbie’s head when it snapped to caring for a sick hamster. Though popo did not graduate with a degree or earn a 5 figure paycheck, she taught me a whole lot of life skills that I hadn’t learnt in school. She was also a keen learner and even picked up speaking English (she speaks mostly in Mandarin and Cantonese) and for that I admired her and learnt that nothing is impossible if you put your heart into it.

When she was a young lady, she was an apprentice to a tailor. Life then I can imagine must have been tough for there were gender inequalities and there were just things the tailor refuses to impart and she started right from the bottom of the trade. That includes spending several weeks just un-tacking seams. I often hear stories of how she had to secretly observe the tailor to learn a trick or two. She worked the hardest and soon earned the recognition from the tailor and was able to assist and make many men suits.

When popo eventually got married and left the apprenticeship, she was no longer a newbie to the trade. She then took on what we call now as ‘freelance work’ while bringing up 6 children. She took on sewing assignments from department stores and alteration assignments from neighbours while juggling chores and bringing up kids all at home and on her trusty sewing machine.


I can still remember how she taught me to use this vintage sewing machine of hers and I truly enjoyed creating holes in papers with it as a kid. As I grew older, it still hadn’t dawned on me that I would one day want to pick up sewing but I would often badger her to sew me a dress or 2. And during 1 Chinese New Year, I asked if she could sew me 2 Cheong Sams and she agreed after much begging.


Cheong Sam also known as Qi Pao is a body hugging one-piece dress with a slit at the side and a mandarin collar. It is also extremely challenging to sew a Cheong Sam because it is so tight fitting; all measurements have to be accurate and seemingly look like it is molded onto the body. For a luxurious feel, it is also common to sew the Cheong Sam using silk. And as we all know it, silk is slippery and a fabric easy to make mistakes with.

Having that said, the genius in my seamstress popo is that she made 2 beautiful and svelte Cheong Sam which won me lots of praises even till this date whenever I wear them during the Chinese New Year period (traditionally, we are suppose to wear new clothes for 15 days!). Many marveled at her workmanship and the intricacy of it all.


My Love. My Popo.


1 thought on “Popo and 2 very striking Cheongsams

  1. Pingback: The History of the Cheongsam | Ade Says

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