Cutting, material and even pockets – here’s what a modern cheongsam maker says women should look out for when dressing for CNY

Ee-ling Fock is the founder of The Missing Piece – a brand that specialises in modern cheongsams.
The Missing Piece

Cheongsams (traditional Chinese dresses) are classy, traditional (and usually) body-hugging dresses that are perfect for the Chinese New Year period.

But many are baffled when it comes to choosing the right one. Although they may sometimes look similar, each individual cheongsam comes with so many different factors to mull over – such as its cutting, length and shape.

To Singaporean entrepreneur Ee-ling Fock – who owns modern cheongsam label The Missing Piece – picking the right one all comes down to getting the basics right.

In fact, the right cheongsam might even suit you so well that you’d want to have a few for everyday wear.

Fock tells Business Insider that the most crucial element to consider when choosing a cheongsam is how practical it is and whether or not it fits your lifestyle.

Read also: A new retail building at Orchard Road will feature over 60 Singaporean brands – here’s what to expect at Design Orchard

The Missing Piece

Finding the right piece for hot, humid Singapore

One of the most important things to consider when Fock designs pieces for CNY is the material, she told Business Insider.

Although the 37-year-old gets most of The Missing Piece’s pieces tailored in Vietnam, she designs and sources all the fabrics herself – and only specific types make the cut.

“You do a lot of visiting and it’s very hot in Singapore. Fabric has to be really comfortable and cooling,” the mother of three said.

The cheongsam also has to be well-cut and suited to the wearer’s body shape.

She said: “To me the most important thing is to pick an outfit that’s suitable for your body figure and is comfortable. If you can find that, the wearer will naturally feel good in it, and that will show in the way she carries herself during CNY house visits.

“And if it’s in a nice colour, go for it. I always tell customers they do not have to wear red for CNY.”

Pockets, pockets, pockets

These criteria don’t just apply to Chinese New Year. Fock aims to create cheongsams that customers can wear beyond the festive season.

“I design clothes for real women – women who are working or who have worked before, and just want clothes that are practical for their daily living,” she said.

The Missing Piece

The idea of designing practical clothing for women stems from Fock’s lifestyle of being a mother of young children. In fact, the designer-entrepreneur stumbled into the business of dress making only because she had the habit of making clothes for herself and her children.

She said: “If it’s not going to be able to have a woman move around from task to task and allow her to wear multiple hats to rush from work to school to pick up her kids, then that doesn’t work for me.”

Fock, who started the label in 2016 after creating a CNY lookbook for her family and friends, added that she designs clothes for women “to take them through day to night in their multiple roles”.

For example, many women who love wearing pretty dresses often have to suffer the inconvenience of not having pockets. But this problem doesn’t apply at The Missing Piece.

“Pretty much every single one of my pieces has pockets if it allows for it. I put pockets (in the dresses) because every woman needs pockets. It’s the first thing I look for in a dress,” the founder said.

What is the Asian fit?

While many gravitate towards wearing clothes from Western brands, Fock said that Asian labels are irreplaceable as they’re uniquely made for the Asian body.

She said: “I think that some cuts work better on Asians, and local designers are very aware of that. Asian women tend to be more petite – their body ratio to their legs are different from Westerners. For me, I like to have my clothing slightly higher-waisted just because I feel its more flattering on the Asian body.”

Colours are also an important part of what Asian brands can offer.

“I don’t tend to follow the colour trend. I know there are certain colours that work for Asian skin as our skin tone is different. I’ve always gravitated towards richer, stronger colours which have more contrast against our fairer skin. I don’t work with pastel colours that much. I tend to work with rich blues, greens,” she said.

At the end of the day, Fock bases her designs on her own needs.

“I design based on what I would wear, and that’s always been my design philosophy. I design what I would wear, what works for my lifestyle, and what works for me. And I trust that would work for other people. And so far, that has been true,” she said.