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Cheongsam in red and black velvet with matching cropped jackets and red pumps

This post answers what to wear for Chinese New Year invitation and shows photos for inspiration from such celebrations in Fairbanks. January 22, 2023 starts the Chinese zodiac year of the rabbit. Your zodiac year is the year you were born in. In honor of the New Lunar Year, this post presents the cheongsams (also called qipao), and other traditional outfits.



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What to Wear for Chinese New Year?

Go for the traditional red, if possible. This color is the best for the occasion because it is associated with luck, happiness, passion, and scaring away spirits of bad fortune in the Chinese culture. In your zodiac year, red is an especially lucky color for you. On the contrary, black and white stand for unlucky and negative, for which you should avoid these colors. But there is no need to wear red. Today many Chinese also go for bright colors.

Traditionally, people wear a new qipao or Tang suit (aka as tangzhuang). Note that the new tangzhuang combines the riding jacket from the Qing dynasty and the Western suit. Why new clothing? Because new clothes symbolize new beginnings. However, for a party outside of China, western clothing in red, festive garments or re-wearing last year’s cheongsam are fine too, especially, for guests of other Nationality. See the outfit inspirations at the end of the post.

Accessorize with something old, read family heirlooms because the Chinese New Year typically is a sort of family reunion. It symbolizes honoring those close to you and your ancestors.

Tip: Avoid wearing clothing of your own Nationality because many Chinese outside of China feel uncomfortable with it, or at least ask the host whether they would feel offended.



Which Shoes and Hair Dos Go with a Cheongsam?

Black, red or nude shoes look nice with the cheongsam. However, you can also try a color of the embroidery or print.

Picking up a color of the cheongsam with patent leather pumps or nude patent leather pumps or gold are chic options.


examples of what to wear for Chinese New Year regarding shoes and hair do with cheongsam
A glimpse backstage. Left: Cheongsam with cropped velvet jacket, yellow shoes matching the embroidery. Right; Side view of same dress without jacket to show the up-do with flower embellishment.



To show off the Mandarin collar, go with a ballerina-inspired up do when you have long hair. See the outfit inspiration below for how to style floral print clothing.

Important: Never use chop sticks for a hair do!



Where to Find a Cheongsam, Hanfu or Tang Suit?

When you want to go for traditional clothes here are some suggestions from where to start shopping for them.



Chinese New Year Festivities Organized by UAF Students

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Chinese Student Association and their adviser Rosalind Khan have organized a Chinese New Year party every year prior to COVID-19. They always have invited the Fairbanks community to the party. Many Chinese business owners in the Fairbanks metropolitan area (sounds big, but it is just Fairbanks population 32324, North Pole 2214 and Fox 417) have supported the celebration by donating door prices, candies, beverages, and the food.



The Program

Typically, the program starts with the buffet dinner followed by entertainment with Chinese music, martial arts performances, little sketches presented in either Chinese or English, a fashion show presenting Chinese traditional clothing, educational pieces about the Chinese culture, songs, dances, etc. The entertainment part, starts with kids performing two dances, and wishing the adults a Happy New Year. In return, they get little red envelops with money and a fruit following Chinese tradition.

The entertainment is moderated by a MC of the UAF Chinese student club in both languages.

collage of dancers and a singer in cheongsam at a Chinese New Year celebration
From upper left clockwise: Dancers performing a Jasmine dance in costumes with jasmine blossoms. Singer in red and black cheongsam. Dancers performing a veil dance.



Great Cheongsam Dresses in the Traditional Ethnic Clothing Fashion Show

All items on the catwalk stem from Fairbanks’ closets. People provide their items for the models to show off. While traditionally black and white are No-Nos, the young generation wears what they want.

Jade is a favorite for jewelry, and also the Alaska state gem. Why now wearing Alaska jewelry when you live there, right? You want the right accessories for great style.

Enjoy the movie with the highlights of the fashion shows of traditional looks.



The Food

Typically, the event starts with a delicious Chinese buffet prepared by one of the local Chinese restaurants in Fairbanks. The buffet encompasses Asian-style cooked fish, various dishes with beef, pork or chicken, chicken kebab, vegetables delight, a variety of filled dumplings, flour dumplings, white rice, fried rice and fried noodles as well as desserts.



The Special Guests

An employee from the Chinese embassy in San Francisco, the Chancellor and his wife, and the Chinese and American Kung Fu champion were among the special guests.


special guests Chinese American kung Fu champion and faculty adviser of the student club
Left: Chinese American Kung Fu champion who gave a presentation of the art. Right: Chinese Student Association faculty adviser Rosalind Kan.


I am not good at estimating how many people were there. Assuming the ticket numbers started with 1 and no number was left out, there must have been over 400 people prior to COVID.


A Culturally Diverse Audience

Since there was no dress code on the tickets or event fliers, Fairbanksans did showed up in what ever they wanted. Therefore, you could see the dressed-up woman in a cocktail dress sitting side-by-side with someone who was dressed as if they had mushed with their dog team to the event. However, many women and little kids wore traditional outfits. Only few men did so.

The audience is culturally quite diverse because Fairbanks has many immigrants from all over the world.  Faibanksans celebrate cultural diversity and they are interested in each other’s traditions and culture.


What to Wear at a Chinese New Year Party: Red Clothes Are Key

The photos below are snap shots from past events illustrating the diversity of the audience and what they wore. More on Fairbanks’ cultural diversity. Therefore, expect a mix of people in ethnic clothes, Fairbanks formal dress code, and cool street chic.


diversity of outfits worn at UAF Chinese New Year celebrations
Left to right: Guest in modern abstract print dress in traditional cheongsam style, Fairbanks Street Style chic, view in the audience with examples of Fairbanks Formal dress code.



When there is a celebration, many Fairbanksans dress up in festive attire or at least go with the vibe of the event, while trying to protect themselves from the cold. This compromise and/or balancing act between dressing up and staying warm makes for a unique streetstyle as is documented in the photos.


examples what to wear to Chinese New Year invitation
Left to right: Going with the vibe wearing a traditional jacket with festive attire. Fairbanks street style. Audience wearing Fairbanks Formal dress Code.


When the outfit requires bare legs, for instance, when dressing for a ball in winter, real Fairbanks fashionistas will probably throw some down pants over when going home.


Learn more about how to have iconic street style.


Happy Chinese New Year.


Photos of the models and me: G. Kramm

Other photos: N. Mölders

© 2013-2023 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved

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This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Lucy Bertoldi

    What an interesting and fun post! I love it ! You look great in all your looks:)

  2. thestylesplash

    You look absolutely stunning Nicole! I love your dress!

    Emma xxx

  3. Hilda Smith

    You look absolutely gorgeous in that dress and what fabulous legs too.

  4. Martina Berg

    My dear Nicole,
    you made my day! Thank you so must for posting me on your wonderful blog! I am really proud to be part of your Link up Partys.
    XO Martina

  5. lazy Daisy Jones

    what a super idea for a fashion show and you have perfect legs for a dress like that too!

  6. Cheryl Shops

    Nicole, that dress you’re wearing is absolutely gorgeous! Happy Chinese New Year!
    Cheryl Shops

  7. Wow, just a stunning gown and I love the long slit that shows your beautiful legs!


  8. Shellie Bowdoin

    Thanks for featuring my post from last Week!


  9. shelbeeontheedge1

    Nicole, I have always loved Chinese and other Asian inspired fashions. Your dress is gorgeous. That slit up the side is magnificent, showcasing your dancer legs! Just beautiful, my friend! And those shoes are spot on as well!