In The Mood For Love: 21 dresses


Recently I watched again “In the mood for love” – the most acclaimed of Wong Kar-wai movies and one of my favourite movies too.. It is a beautiful film, not so much about telling a story as creating an atmosphere.. Nostalgic atmosphere of 60s.. Striking cinematography, brilliant soundtrack, it gives you a great aesthetic pleasure..

There are stunning shots in this movie, you want to absorb them like paintings; in fact, it does remind me of impressionistic paintings, that capture ordinary moments of life, revealing the hidden beauty in mundane.. It also reminds me of Japanese Haiku, short, succinct poems that convey more symbols and associations than actual words.

It’s like with beautiful paintings, you can see the movie again and again, and each time you notice something new..

This time I noticed dresses.. Not that I didn’t notice them before, but that time I actually counted them!

The main character played by Maggie Cheung wears elegant qipao, or cheongsam, close-fitting dress with a high neck that emphasizes her fragile beauty..

The dresses play an important role in the film as they indicate the passage of time. It seems even the filmmaker himself doesn’t know how many dresses are in the film: ” In fact, we had 20-25 dresses for Maggie for the whole film. Because we cut the film short, it becomes like a fashion show; she changes all the time.” (Interview with Wong Kar-wai, source)

Well, I counted 21 dresses.. Here they are, enjoy!

Dress 1

Lovely floral print, she wears it at the beginning of the movie. Notice the matching print on the curtains.


And again in the middle of the film. The clock (recurring object of Kar-wai movies) and the globe will appear many times..


Dress 2

The day of moving in.


Dress 3

Appears only in one scene.


Dress 4

Love this cute geometric print.


Doesn’t she look beautiful?


Dress 5

Another geometric print.


Dress 6

Abstract print


Dress 7

Vertical stripes. Love the colours..


Dress 8

Beautiful brown-olive dress. And I love that lampshade!


Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung. Perfect casting and perfect match!


Dress 9

“Snake-like” stripy dress.



Dress 10

Green dress matches the phone and the wall at the background.


In this shot the colours of the room contrast her dress. She’s in the hotel room, and she’s clearly out of her element.


Dress 11

Black and white dress and deliciously nice Tony Leung.


Dress 12

That’s my favourite with daffodils..


Dress 13

Red “seducing” dress. Not seen much.. It seems the scenes with this dress were deleted from the final version of the film.


Dress 14

Another geometric print. Matches wallpapers at the background.



Dress 15

Black and white floral dress.


Worn with red overcoat


Dress 16

Matching pattern on the bowl.


Dress 17

Another floral beauty that she wears in a heartbreaking scene under the rain.


It seems like their last meeting..


Dress 18

but in the next scene in the taxi she wears yet another dress!


Dress 19

She secretly visits his room in Singapore.


Dress 20

Some years later..  Meggie Cheung has changed her hair. She looks younger but less enigmatic.


Dress 21

The last time we see her.


He remembers those vanished years,

as though looking through a dusty window-pane,

the past is something he could see but not touch.

And everything he sees is blurred and indistinct.


The END.

21 thoughts on “In The Mood For Love: 21 dresses

  1. Hi Julia
    Interesting post and a timely reminder! I saw this film years ago and was impressed, but didn’t sew at the time and now struggle to remember it. But a few years later I saw Lust, Caution and fell in love with the whole film, Ang Lee, the costumes and most of all Tony Leung! Now I must see In the Mood asap!

    • Thank you!
      I saw Lust, caution as well, it is a beautifully made film. And I love Tony Leung! He is playing the main role in “2046” as well – another Kar-wai masterpiece..

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  3. Some beautiful dresses here – I think dress no. 1 might be my favourite – and I’ll look out for this movie. I often get distracted by clothes and costumes when I’m watching films or the tv – especially things like Downton where the plotlines just wash over me but I’m closely following a particular dress or coat or hat etc. We have an Australian drama running here – A Place To Call Home (not sure if it’s screening in the UK?) and although I’m not very interested in the series per se some of the clothes are so covetable!

    • I’m the same, I watched Downtown abbey mainly because of the costumes :) I haven’t heard about the period drama you mentioned, hopefully they will show it in England at some point :)

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  6. Does anybody know what kind of material(s) the dresses were made of, and if they had any ‘give’? She (the character) was taking her shoes off in favour of slippers in the evenings, but not the dresses, so they must have been reasonably comfortable…
    Does anybody know if and where one can buy dresses cut like these, even if not made from such exquisite fabrics?

  7. Ooooh. I have not seen this film but I love this post. It’s basically the same dress in several sumptuous fabrics. Just shows if you know what style suits you you can just keep making it up. Again and again. Lovely, inspirational research. Thanks so much.

  8. Great post. This is also one of my favorite movies; Maggie Cheung resembles my late aunt and I love the elegance of her cheongsams. I learned a few years back from my friend Cheryl Tan who the Hong Kong tailor is that made the dresses– Linva Tailor. I am so excited that today, I finally had a chance to get one made! Not 21, but 1 is a good start. Here’s Cheryl’s article:

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  10. WOW! few years ago I made a home video using snapshots of Maggie Cheung wearing all qipao dresses in the film. I used as soundtrack Shigeru Umebayashi’s “Yumeji’s theme”, the main one in the movie. In The Mood for Love is considered the second best movie ( so far) of the XXI Century. The list is a compilation by the 100 best film critics from around the world. Great post, thanks!

  11. Thank you for this list of pictures of the fabulous qipaos worn by Maggie Cheung during the filming of ‘In the Mood for Love’ one of my most favourite films ever, certainly in my top 10.

    Always immaculately attired, in one scene of this sublime film you may spot Su Li-shen/Mrs Chan (Maggie Cheung) with a crumpled collar. This is the only indicator of something a little more wayward having happened between her and Chow Mo-wan/Mr Chow (Tony Leung), which then explains the appearance of her child towards the end of the film.

    The film has started a passion for Qipaos/Cheongsams for me, so I’m very pleased to find this article with pictures all the dresses, albeit most only partially visible. The range of fabrics used for these dresses is stunning, from the raw silk duo-tone in green and rusty red to the almost kitsch pink-purple flowers dress, the tweedy monotone striped dress. My favourite one must be the vertical striped of burgundy, old-gold, purple and some blues. Though there are many moments when it’s dress 2 on this list, a pattern of hand-painted checkered stripes, up, down and across, all very 50’s/60s, in mutes browns and russets on a cream background, edged on the neckline and bust opening in a light blue lace ribbon. Flowers?

    Thank you again to bringing back the images.

  12. I have always loved this film. Those cheongsam cost US$2500 each when they were made in 2000. Crazy amount spent. Maggie was quoted as saying they were so uncomfortable to wear due to the extra-high collars, but they are perfection on her.

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