Me in my ao dai. Copyright William McDaniel
Since I'm ethnically Chinese, I decided to only bring my qipao to college. For whatever reason, I thought there would be an occasion to wear it. Wearing Chinese traditional clothing can be tricky because it has become so fetishised by the West. However, a modest cut and a modern print make the qipao quite fashionable if I say so myself.
Wearing ethnic outfits can be difficult. Many ethnic clothes have been reduced to costume pieces, or only worn on special occasions. It looks silly to wear super-natural makeup with such outfits, and in these cases it would be a shame to look too "Western". Here's what I decided to do.
I tried to blend the concepts of Eastern and Western beauty together. I've got a distinct black eyeliner on my top lid, but did not blend the colour down. I also have slightly paler skin than usual (the high neckline helps hid any lazy blending) and ever-so-slightly pink cheeks. In the picture on the left, I have a fuchsia sparkly lip colour on for an updated, modern look. Since the rest of my face is so traditional, and the qipao is dark blue, this contrast works. On the right (sitting in the Boston Opera House) I'm wearing a semi-gloss lipstick that doesn't come off too easily. It's a more practical choice when one is eating and drinking.
Essentially, makeup for ethnic outfits ought to strike a balance between updated and traditional. You don't want to look like something out of a history book, but you don't want to go too crazy either!