From One and Half of You

Price depends on how the cheongsam

was made, the fabric used.


Gasp. Lift breasts with one hand.

Stuff your body inside.


If you wear this print of peonies

people may call them cabbages.


Hand-sewn, it’s vulnerable to tears.

A machine can fix that.


Needles pinned will prick as you slip out

try another.


This dress – too loose.

Take in the back, add darts in the front

(though the fit will clearly be forced).


Wear this one of tangerine wool

high collar, tapered sleeves.



it will cost more to reshape.


Change the zipper to invisible.


Create the illusion


were born with this

as skin.

Dive in

1) What is a cheongsam?


2) How does the speaker feel about trying on this piece of traditional Chinese clothing made for women?


3) Does the cheongsam fit the speaker?  Why or why not?


4) What does ‘fitting’ into a piece of traditional clothing mean to someone who is mixed-race?


5) When one is trying on clothes, one often looks at oneself in a mirror. If you were to recite this poem, what subtle movements could you do with your body to express the idea of trying on clothes?


6) Try on a piece of traditional clothing associated with your family’s culture or religion and describe in writing how it feels.  Does it make you feel comfortable or uncomfortable?  How does it fit?


Useful links:

What is a cheongsam:


20 cheongsams (also called qipao) worn by Maggie Cheung in the movie In The Mood For Love


Dive In written by
Bibliographical info

Leanne Dunic, pg 35 excerpt from One and Half of You. Copyright © 2021. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Source: One and Half of You (Talonbooks, 2021)


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