By Baxley Aldworth
In the Chinese play “Peony Pavilion,” a privileged, sheltered girl dreams of having a romantic escapade with a handsome young student in the Peony Pavilion. Realizing the tryst was only a dream, she passes away in seclusion from a broken heart. As fate would have it, the student of her dreams chanced upon her house and was able bring the expired beauty back to life.
Fortunately, here in New York, people do not have to go through so much trouble to find such beauty. Now it’s as easy as stepping into a store such as Peony Red, which offers traditional and contemporary clothing and accessories. Peony Red specializes in qipaos, which are close-fitting dresses that originated in 1920s Shanghai. In those days, qipaos were worn by upper class women and socialites. They were all the rage until the Cultural Revolution in 1949, when women had to exchange their elegant qipaos for mundane work clothes. But just like the bewitching girl in “Peony Pavilion,” qipaos were revived. In the 1990s, qipaos began to make a comeback, and in the 2000s they became well-known. Today, qipaos are worn by New Yorkers who seek a unique look, or by those who want to show their appreciation of traditional Chinese dress. Despite not being everyday garb, qipaos are versatile and can be worn to all sorts of events such as weddings, parties, and tea ceremonies.
But what’s a girl to do if she has her qipao, but nothing to go along with it? Luckily, Peony Red also offers unique handbags for those looking to accessorize. Shoppers may notice these handbags look familiar, and that’s because they have been featured on Sex and the City, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Seventeen Magazine, Girlfriend Magazine, and Travel Magazine. These handbags are designed by none other than the sister of Peony Red, Lina Luo (annmillie.com) and, like most things in the store, are made by hand. Nakamol jewelry is another excellent option — handmade, the jewelry contains natural stones or pearls, and makes a stylish complement to many of the dresses in the store.
Guys may feel a little left out with all the talk of dresses and purses, but Peony Red caters to men as well. Why not try a reversible jacket that matches with the girl’s dress? Striking Mandarin suits are available to men and boys also. Peony Red is the premier seller of qipaos, but there’s much more to discover there. Make the trip to Chinatown and resurrect your style!