It is the Chinese-style dress called a “cheongsam” or “qipao.” “Cheongsam” seems to be more common and is understood even with my Delaware accent. The dress alone explains why there are so many Chinese in the world. The style is both elegant and sexy, a killer combination.
The Wikipedia reference says it began in Shanghai in the
1920s, but it goes back even further as a very different, loose, A-frame, long garment with long sleeves, even worn by royal dowagers. It was better defined as a robe than a dress. Shanghai style merely tightened it and added the slit to allow for walking. But that sure changed its image and made it incredibly sexy.
The photo above was of a shipboard entertainer on our China tour. The women I saw on the streets were wearing western dress, mostly casual and mostly slacks. I only saw cheongsams worn by entertainers and restaurant hostesses. They are expensive and, I assume, are reserved for dressy occasions, somewhat like a western tuxedo. They have traditionally been made out of one piece of cloth by specially trained male tailors. I have never seen one worn by a visitor to Longwood Gardens.
I do not really understand what defines a cheongsam. I think cheongsam refers to the tight fit, short sleeves, high collar—and, importantly, the slit, the high slit. There is the classic cheongsam and the many variations still called cheongsams or cheongsam-based.
I suspect a Chinese retailer can call any dress a cheongsam as a sign of quality.
However it is defined, I know one when I see it. If any reader knows more, I will be happy to be educated. Fashion design is far, far from my sphere of knowledge.