designer Irene Lu puts a modern
spin on the dudou, China’s
traditional lingerie meant to cover
what was your most important asset
during the Qing era: your stomach.
The silky, backless, diamondshaped
halter top is not what you’d
expect to be sold on the racks of
lingerie shops today, but during the
Qing Dynasty, the dudou
(肚兜) was considered hot stuff.
The silky creations also showed off
a woman’s embroidery talents, as
each dudou could be customised
with hand-stitched designs.
There’s no padding, push-ups, or
wiring. ‘Just let them fly!’ says Lu.
Lu first discovered the dudou
during her studies at the Fashion
Institute of Technology in New
York, and later during her time
working with famed film costume
designer Tim Yip, whose work can be seen in films such as
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
She says Pillowbook’s name is a
reference to a sexy – and kinda
sexist – Chinese custom.
In the Qing era, ‘pillow books’
were often given by friends and
family members to would-be child brides, educating them about
what was going to happen on their
wedding night. India may have
the Kama Sutra but, unbeknown
to most, China also has its own
saucy sex manual – a wooden
scroll with carvings of different
sexual positions. They worked as
guidebooks, instructing women on
how to pleasure their men. The small
scrolls could be rolled up and kept
under the pillow, hence the name.
Lu’s small studio, located
in Beixin Hutong, showcases
beautiful handmade bras, shorts,
silky knickers and fashion-forward
dudous stitched with window-frame
designs on the border. She even
does adorable matching mother and
tot versions of the dudou.
Pillowbook is still boutique enough
to have a feeling of exclusivity: visits
are by appointment only, prices
range from 500-1,800RMB and
each creation is hand-made by a
seamstress – so expect to wait
around two-to-three weeks. If you
really can’t wait that long for your
underwear, Lu has select sampling of