Singaporebrides | Fashion

August 2013

The Chinese Tradition Of Wearing Qun Kua

Before the white wedding gown came into fashion, Chinese brides had been wearing the traditional striking red two-piece qun kua to symbolise luck and happiness for the auspicious event. In Singapore, the ceremonial dress is gaining popularity as more boutiques are offering the option to buy or rent one. SingaporeBrides shows you when, where and how to wear it.

The tradition of a white wedding is widely attributed to Queen Victoria, who first donned her famous lace dress for her royal nuptials in 1840. Her influence had extended into the far reaches of the world. Today, many brides continue to uphold the Western custom of wearing white to symbolise innocence and sexual purity when they walk down the aisle.

But before the iconic white wedding gown came to be customary, Chinese brides – especially those from southern China – favoured the qun kua (裙褂). A traditional striking red two-piece ceremonial dress, it is fast becoming a popular choice for Singaporean Chinese brides nowadays. Janet Ng, owner of The Red Wedding boutique, observes: “Although the tradition of wearing qun kua has been around for ages, it wasn’t that popular in the past as there weren’t many avenues to access these traditional attires. However, in recent years, more and more boutiques are selling or renting a wider array of qun kuas. This had been making it easier for brides to incorporate the qun kua into their actual day schedules.”

Janet also notes that more brides here are choosing to wear the qun kua – even if it is just for a few hours during the traditional tea ceremony – because it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do so. Besides being a strong reflection of Chinese culture, the red colour of the qun kua symbolises luck, happiness and bountiful blessings, which is what all brides yearn for in marriage! So if you are considering to wear the qun kua to your Big Day, read on.

WHO should wear the qun kua?

The White Rabbit wedding Amanda and Dennis Naiise 24Amanda and Dennis’ Elegant Wedding at The White Rabbit by Valentine Ross Photography

Only the bride can wear the traditional red qun kua, which consists of the “qun” (skirt) and the “kua” (jacket). Due to its origins in southern China, a common misconception is that only Cantonese brides can wear the ceremonial dress. Janet says: “This cannot be further away from the truth. All Chinese brides can wear the qun kua, as it is actually a Chinese practice.” Meanwhile, your groom has a few sartorial choices to match your qun kua. He can stick to his day suit, wear a Tang-style jacket with dragon motifs or Mandarin collar shirt, or even go all out and wear a ma gua (a silk Chinese men’s jacket over a gown) with embroidery and fa kao (cloth flower ball).

WHEN to wear the qun kua?

Claire and Tammy's Rustic Garden Wedding in Alkaff Mansion42Claire and Tammy’s Sweet Garden Wedding at Alkaff Mansion by Tinydot Photography

Traditionally, brides don the qun kua in the morning and sit on the bed to await the start of the fetch-the-bride session. “In Singapore, there are some brides who still maintain this tradition by wearing it as a main gown,” says Janet. “But most choose to wear a white wedding gown for the fetch-the-bride session before switching to the qun kua before or during their return to the bride’s family for tea ceremony.” But modern-day brides don’t have to be restricted to one way of wearing the qun kua. For instance, there are brides who opt not to wear an evening gown during the Chinese banquet. Instead, they will wear the qun kua for their second march-in.

HOW to choose a qun kua?

Chinese wedding; Singapore; traditional Qun KuaRomantically Wed at Hotel Jen Tanglin Singapore by Destined Moments

There are a few tips when it comes to choosing the perfect qun kua. Here is a step-by-step guide.

STEP 1: Pick the right colour.

As a bride, you have to choose a red qun kua to wear. “In the olden days, only the first wife can wear a red qun kua while colours like pink or peach are used by the concubines,” says Janet. You might also come across qun kuas that are darker in colour, like black or maroon. These are reserved for the female elders in the family, like your future mother-in-law, and not appropriate for a bride.

STEP 2: Choose an auspicious design.

In essence, there should be a dragon (symbolising the groom) and a phoenix (symbolising the bride) embroidered down the front of a traditional qun kua. But these days, the qun kua can also be adorned with auspicious embellishments like peonies or pomegranates. See and touch a few qun kuas to see if there is a certain style that you prefer. For instance, some brides will go for dainty beaded qun kuas while others prefer more elaborate versions with intricate embroidery – complete with gold and silver threads – and coloured sequins.

STEP 3: Make sure the workmanship is good.

When selecting your kua, look out for good workmanship. This means hand-embroidered flowers and realistic-looking dragons and phoenixes (if created from beaded and sequins, look out for the 3D effect). If you are renting for just a few hours, you don’t have to be overly concerned. But if you are planning to buy a qun kua, it makes sense to check the workmanship thoroughly. Run your hand through the qun kua, and check whether there are loose threads, missing bead and sequins before putting your money down.

STEP 4: Get the right fit.

At the bridal boutique or qun kua rental shop, be sure to ask for the right size. Certain qun kuas are free size, where the skirt comes with adjustable straps. But if the selection of qun kuas offer a range of sizes, try on to get the best fit. Janet advises: “Petite brides can go for XS to S, while plus-sized brides can go from L to XXL. Generally, they should not be baggy or shapeless when worn. At The Red Wedding, our qun kua jackets come tapered at the sides, so it accentuates the waist and cuts a slimmer silhouette. The sleeves should end at least three inches above the wrist to reveal your soft, smooth skin.”

STEP 5: Don’t forget the hair-do and accessories.

A traditional Chinese qun kua goes best with gold accessories. If your parents have prepared traditional dowry for you, it should include a number of gold necklaces, rings, earrings, bracelets and bangles. The Teochews place great emphasis on the Si Dian Jin, a four-piece set of gold jewellery, while the Hokkiens and Cantonese focus on a good pair of dragon-phoenix or simple gold bangles. Also ask your makeup artist to put your hair into a classic, ladylike chignon to present a demure image. As for your shoes, you can opt for red or gold heels or traditional embroidered shoes – available from Chinatown – to tie the whole look together.

WHY wear the qun kua?

Audrie and Eugene's Rose Gold Nosh Wedding Venue Singapore 41Audrie and Eugene’s Pastel and Rose Gold Nosh Wedding by Gowns Villa

Trends may come and go, but a qun kua is a symbol of Chinese tradition and culture. “It will never go out of style,” says Janet. “Flip through your wedding album a decade from now, and you will agree that it still looks as timeless and as appropriate as ever.” More importantly, wearing the qun kua is all about keeping with tradition – and preserving Chinese heritage.

Credits: Feature Image from Amanda and Dennis’ Elegant Wedding at The White Rabbit by Valentine Ross Photography