In Attire
Relationship: Im/migrant
My mother wearing her Poh Poh's cheongsam in 1996.
My mother wearing her Poh Poh's cheongsam in 1996.

My great-grandmother, also known as my mother's Poh Poh, was born in China in 1917. After years of being referred to as Poh Poh, I began to call her the same, even though she is not my grandmother. While living in China, she was a beautiful young woman who had little money to her name. She was also single and living in southeastern China. My Poh Poh immigrated to the United States when she was 16 years old as a mail-order bride to an American man. This long trek brought her from China into not the west coast of California, but Ellis Island. She wasn't allowed to bring many things, but what she did bring, was her cheongsam. A cheongsam is a traditional one-piece dress that is extremely popular among women in China. Cheongsam’s were very stylish, they were tight-fitting, and they usually indicated wealth and high status. My Poh Poh wasn’t exactly upper-class and to this day it is still unknown in my family how she obtained her cheongsam. My mom has always taught me that in Chinese culture people don't believe in wasting their money. The cheongsam my Poh Poh brought over was tucked in and lightly hemmed, which alludes to me that the dress didn’t fit her properly. Nevertheless, she made it work. My grandmother wore the dress at her wedding, as well as my own 5’11’’ mother. After generations of passing it down, I know that my turn is next. I will be able to carry on my Poh Poh’s legacy through this truly delicate piece of history, and I will wear the cheongsam with pride.

Place(s): China
Year: 1933

– Kate Barrett

Relationship:  Im/migrant Im/migrant