Gambiered Canton gauze, is the perfect fabric for cheongsam

BY :lifeofguangzhou.com

UPDATED :August 4, 2017


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If every woman in France should have a little black dress, every elegant Chinese woman will have a cheongsam in their closet. 
Gambiered Canton gauze, a kind of light silk, is the perfect fabric for cheongsam.                  
A long history
This fabric was used for women's clothing during the period of Republic of China (1912-1949).

Gambiered Canton gauze on the boundless grassland
Chinese author Xie Wanying, better known by her pen name Bing Xin, once depicted her mother in "To Little Readers." She wrote: "Dressed in cyan outfits made of gambiered Canton gauze, she is an amiable lady in her 50s. She talks in manners that appear to be both affectionate and reprimanding." The description of her outfit adds tenderness to the image.
Qiqiao, a heroine from author Eileen Chang's "Golden Cangue," wears "a white gambiered Canton gauze shirt and black skirt. But it seems as if she has put on rouge on her cheeks." Here the outfit immediately brings out the young woman's sexy elegance.  

Gambiered Canton gauze cheongsam of remarkable elegance
Soong Ching-ling, wife of Sun Yat-sen, was known as an elegant "lady in cheongsam." One of her favorite pieces was a black short-sleeved gambiered Canton gauze cheongsam with a band collar, handmade by her tailor. Even after she became heavier with age, she had the dress altered to fit her.
Deemed as a "national treasure" kind of fabric, the gambiered Canton gauze is unique to Guangdong Province, whose birth could not do without the sunshine and soil of the south of the Nanling Mountains. To be specific, the silk fabric is first dyed with the extract from the dye yam, a plant unique to Guangdong, and then processed with mud rich in minerals dug out from riverbeds. Finally the fabric is dried in the sun.
A Chinese herb, dye yam can prevent mold and mildew, fight against bacteria and get rid of odors. Gambiered Canton gauze, having soaked in dye yam extract, therefore, is good for people's health because it keeps away humidity, which according to traditional Chinese medicine is bad for the body. Fashion designer Qu Tingnan thinks that the process of making gambiered Canton gauze resembles the early practice of treating its trench coats with wood wax by Burberry.
The designer explains to people from other nations that gambiered Canton gauze is something made with the "hard work of skillful workers" assisted by "facilitating natural conditions."
Many of the older generation in Guangdong have worn the real stuff. The authentic gambiered Canton gauze has patterns similar to traditional wood carvings seen on the windows in the south of Nanling Mountains. It's amazingly low-key: The patterns are almost undetectable unless the fabric is held against the light. That also explains why the fabric is so thin but you cannot see through it. It's the most comfortable thing to wear in hot summer. Dressed in gambiered Canton gauze, it feels cool even if you are breaking a sweat. 
A continued story
However, the traditional method of manufacturing gambiered Canton gauze, mastered by just a few, is nearly lost today even in its origins in Guangdong, because the weaving technique is too complicated.

The fabric known as gambiered Canton gauze in the market today is in fact satin processed with dye dam.
And that explains why many young people feel the fabric does not live up to its legendary fame of keeping them cool in summer. Without the hollowed-out patterns of the gauze, the satin fabric doesn't allow much air to pass through.  
Silky with an elegant luster, satin processed with dye yam has a good drape. The fabric gives the impression of a low-key luxury.
Unlike the traditional gambiered Canton gauze, the fabric today is not suitable to wear in the very hot summer. You may feel a bit muggy wearing it in temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius. The tradeoff is you can wear the glamorous fabric all year round except in summer. Therefore, it has become a bigger player on the fashion stage.   
A plain woven fabric, today's gambiered Canton gauze has a better drape and presents a lot more possibilities in the hands of fashion designers. Despite its mellow elegance, garments made of the fabric today are high fashion. Yet, on top of its splendid colors and dazzling patterns, the fabric still impresses people with its "old-fashioned glamour," a discernable undertone of serene beauty mellowed with years.  
 With the imprint of a long past, gambiered Canton gauze gives us a taste of tradition. Its story has led us to believe that however the world changes, things of true value will last.

(Editor: Lei)