Category Archives: celebrity


Your Mandarin Dress & His Tie

Remember the way your prom date color-coordinated his bow tie with your dress? Color coordination between a couple actually can go way beyond the prom night.

Grey Coat with Grey Tie

In America, there are two couples known for wearing matching outfits almost every day for more than 35 years. They are Mel and Joey Schwanke in Nebraska, and Donald and Nancy Featherstone in Massachusetts. You may not want to go this far, but it definitely feels sweet to color-coordinate your cocktail dress with your boyfriend’s or husband’s tie for social events you are both attending. In the meantime, you can choose a Mandarin dress to be your cocktail dress, following the example of Peng Liyuan, China’s first day.

Green Qipao Dress and Green Tie

Look at the first couple of China getting off the airplane arm in arm, with a lime green silk tie on him and a lime green glittery silk Mandarin dress on her. The exact match of color makes both of their outfits more eye-catching and even more elegant.

If you like lime green, here is a lovely lime green Mandarin dress with white polka dots:

Green Polka Dot Qipao Dress by ELEGENTE

In the next photo, Ms. Peng (please note that the Chinese name order puts the family name first and Chinese women keep their maiden names) is wearing a modernized Mandarin dress, which doesn’t come with a Mandarin collar but with distinctly Oriental embroidery.

Silver Qipao with Silver Grey Tie

This modernized Mandarin dress of Ms. Peng’s comes in silvery gray, whereas her husband’s tie is slate blue, a grayish shade of blue. So, this is not an exact match, but a coordination of similar colors. While it doesn’t impress as strongly as an exact match does, it’s a more subtle way of telling the world that the two are a couple. Some people prefer making implicit statements. If that describes you, simply pick a dress in a similar hue to your man’s favorite tie. It’s much easier than finding the exact color.

By the way, if your man has a nice silk tie in slate blue like President Xi’s, here is a Mandarin dress you can wear to subtly match it.

Blue & Silver Brocade Cheongsam by ELEGENTE

The silvery gray print makes the midnight blue background of the silk brocade dress look very close to slate blue.

Speaking of blue and gray, here is another photo in which China’s first couple presents a scheme of these two colors.

Blue Mandarin Dress with Blue Gray Tie

In this photo, President Xi’s tie is blueish gray, but his wife’s Mandarin dress comes mostly in a very bright shade of sapphire blue. When a couple uses this kind of color scheme, with the brighter color on the lady, it puts the spotlight on her.

If this glorious Mandarin dress appeals to you, here is one looking strikingly similar.

Blue Qipao with Pipa Placket

This Mandarin dress is in exactly the same shade of sapphire blue. It also comes with fancy embroidered flowers in the same position as those on Ms. Peng’s dress. But in a sleeveless design with a cute keyhole, it looks more youthful.

If you like working with blue to create a couple’s color scheme, here is one more example: Ms. Peng is wearing a purplish blue Mandarin blouse to go with her husband’s blueish purple tie.

Mandarin Cheongsam Top

It doesn’t matter that his tie is more purple and her dress is more blue. They look harmonious together, just like a couple being very close but keeping some individuality. This kind of color coordination really can symbolize a perfect modern relationship!

Helen Li Mei

Helen Li Mei and the Jantzen Swimsuit Affair

Helen Li Mei and the Jantzen Swimsuit Affair
“Fetchingly attired in an oriental style dress, Chinese actress Helen Lee Mei uses the Chrysler building as a backdrop as she poses atop a building here Oct. 3rd. Miss Mei, who was supposed to represent the Far East in swim suit fashions in New York, said Oct. 4th that she will not pose in a bathing suit because she considers it immodest. She will be flown back to Hong Kong by the swim suit manufacturer.” —UPI Photo, October 4, 1958

Helen Li Mei refusing to pose in a swimsuit because she thinks it immodest? Hmmm… that doesn’t sound like the Li Mei I know.

While not quite an international incident, Helen Li’s unexpected refusal to model for Jantzen, after being flown to the United States by the swimsuit manufacturer, was nonetheless noted by International Screen as one of the “Ten Biggest Events in 1958” (ranking third, right after Our Sister Hedy‘s Best Picture Award and Lin Dai’s second Best Actress Award at the 5th Asian Film Festival). While it’s impossible to know what really happened, the wildly different accounts in the American and Chinese press hint at — to put it nicely — a lack of cultural respect and understanding.

On October 1st, 1958, Helen arrived in New York to help publicize Jantzen’s latest international collection of swimsuits and sportswear. Here’s a news item showing her doing some preliminary publicity on the day of her arrival with the three other models participating in the promo tour.

Helen arrived in New York to help publicize Jantzen's latest international collection of swimsuits and sportswear
INTERNATIONAL VIEWERS . . . The international model set was well represented by this quartet of lovelies who attended the premiere of the film “The Big Country” as Astor Theatre in New York Wednesday. From left, they are Helen Connor, England; Fay Vitucci, Rome; Mamo Howell, Hawaii; and Helen Lee Mei of Hong Kong. The first three are wearing variations of the chemise while Miss Lee Mei is wearing a traditional style Chinese dress.
—The Daily Review, October 6, 1958

However, it was soon being reported in the American press that Helen was refusing to wear a swimsuit for Jantzen.

No Swimsuit, No Publicity

NEW YORK (AP) — A Chinese model-actress from Hong Kong, flown here to help publicize a line of bathing suits, is being sent back home. She won’t wear a bathing suit.

The wasted trip of beautiful Helen Lee Mei was described by a spokesman for the swimsuit manufacturer. He said Miss Mei agreed to come here and appear in the Jet Age International Show at Idlewild airport Tuesday, along with top-flight models from other countries.

Miss Mei arrived in New York Wednesday, and it soon became apparent there had been a misunderstanding.

“The other girls have created no difficulties,” said the spokesman. “However, Miss Mei refuses to wear a swimsuit.”

Miss Mei was not available for comment.

Albuquerque Journal, October 5, 1958

So, what happened? Like I said earlier, Helen was no stranger to the swimsuit. In fact, she was one of Hong Kong’s top pin-up girls, as this July 1958 calendar photo clearly attests.

According to Oldflames, International Screen had a quite different account of the Jantzen affair. Apparently, when the company had approached Helen’s studio (MP&GI) and invited her to the United States to promote their new collection, they weren’t very organized and never showed her the contract. However, since a press conference had already been held by MP&GI to announce the tour, she decided to just go ahead with it.

Evidently, when Helen finally arrived in New York, instead of welcoming her like the top star that she was, Jantzen only sent a low-ranking promotions assistant to get her signature on the contract. It is at this point, according to the American press, that Helen became “difficult” and refused to wear a swimsuit out of an alleged (and implied as inscrutable) modesty. But according to Helen, the real reason that she refused to cooperate with Jantzen was because their assistant was rude to her and the company had acted unprofessionally.

Rather than try and patch things up with her, Jantzen warned Helen that she might be deported if she did not change her mind. Upon hearing this, Helen became so angry that she decided to sever her relations for good. She even went so far as to make a public statement that she was not at all adverse to wearing a swimsuit but rather did not like the way that Jantzen treated her.

Again, it’s hard to say what really happened, yet it is not so difficult to imagine a possible chain of events from Helen’s perspective: a less than respectful welcome; continually, and incorrectly, being addressed as Miss Mei rather than Miss Li (see the news items above); and perhaps even being given the “China doll” treatment (this happened, after all, during the “Suzie Wong” era).

Perhaps I’m reading too much into this. Maybe Helen was a bit of a diva… I don’t know. But looking at Helen, especially in the picture at the top of this post, I see a proud woman who was willing to stand up for the respect she deserved.

Helen Li Mei in the U.S.A.

Helen Li Mei in the U.S.A.

LiMei Hawaii
Although she was dissed by Jantzen upon her arrival in the States, at least Helen got a little bit of aloha when she touched down in Hawaii on her way to New York.

Was Helen Li Mei deported from the United States in the wake of the Jantzen Swimsuit Affair? Did she immediately return to Hong Kong in defeat and shame? I don’t think so… not our proud Helen!

Instead of being paraded around in a swimsuit, here’s how Helen spent her four-month stay in the U.S.A.

LiMei theater
In New York, Helen made personal appearances during screenings of A Girl Named Hong Hong (1956), a film that she financed and produced herself.

In New York, Helen made personal appearances during screenings of A Girl Named Hong Hong (1956), a film that she financed and produced herself.

LiMei autographs
Here she is, signing photos for her young fans.


LiMei DoubleTenParade
Hailed by Chinese Americans as the “most patriotic Chinese actress”, Helen celebrated Double Ten Day in New York Chinatown.


LiMei radiointerview
She was even interviewed on WOR Radio. I’d love to hear this!


LiMei RobertWagner
No visit to the Big Apple would be complete without meeting the mayor. Here she is with Mayor Robert F. Wagner, Jr.
LiMei UnitedNations
Helen was given a tour of the United Nations Headquarters by Dr. T. F. Tsiang (on her right), the Republic of China’s chief delegate to the U.N., and Dr. Victor Hu (on her left), the delegation secretary. Check out that cheongsam!
LiMei GeorgeYeh
She also dined with Dr. George Yeh, the Republic of China’s Ambassador to the U.S. Are you surprised? Well, Helen did major in political science before she became a movie star.
LiMei DC
Here she is on the steps of the Capitol.
aukarwai limei
Helen visited with fellow Hong Kong actresses Siu Yin Fei (second from left, front row) and Pearl Au Kar-wai (second from left, back row), who were in New York at the time.
LiMei FranceNuyen
She also met Broadway’s “Suzie Wong”, France Nuyen. Was it cordial cattiness or sisterly love?
LiMei AnthonyQuinn
Anthony Quinn asked Helen to play the leading role in a film that he was planning on directing. Look at the camera, Tony!
LiMei Hollywood
Out on the West Coast, Helen visited the Twentieth Century-Fox studios. Is that Danny Kaye who is the object of her admiring gaze?
LiMei GoldenGateBridge
Finally, here she is in San Francisco, standing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.

This wasn’t Helen’s only trip to the United States. After she retired from show business in 1967, she married Chinese American Robert Ruan, a CIA officer she met in Taiwan, and moved to his hometown of Portland, Oregon, where she lived until her death in 1994.

Helen Li Mei: Hong Kong’s Bikini Queen

Helen Li Mei: Hong Kong's Bikini Queen
Helen Li Mei: Hong Kong’s Bikini Queen

Cheongsam Clad Lee Young Ae Impresses World of Fashion at Gucci SS 2014 Show

At the 2014 Gucci Spring Summer Collection Show in Milan, Korean actress Lee Young Ae was caught dressed up in a cheongsam like dress.

Lee Young Ae in a cheongsam ish dress of Gucci 2013 AW collection
Lee Young Ae in a cheongsam ish dress of Gucci 2013 AW collection

Fashion brand presenter Blake Christina Lively, British music producer Anna Calvi and many other celebrities were invited to the show. Being the only Oriental face, Lee Young Ae specially chose a qipao style dress of the Gucci 2013 AW collection, her elegant presence had drawn the attention of the media.

Lee Young Ae in a qipao like dress at 2014 Gucci fashion show w Anna Wintour
Lee Young Ae in a qipao like dress at 2014 Gucci fashion show w Anna Wintour

The Chinese qipao style dress gracefully exhibits Lee’s special quality of elegance magically. The draping quality of the gradient houndstooth patterned fabric of the dress, the simple decorated black leather belt, and the black clutch bag can really be some inspiring matching tips for cheongsam lovers, especially the pair of simple colored platform, and the plain gold circle earrings.

More photos of Lee in the cheongsam in Milan